Vaccinate Your Baby

Victims of Vaccine-Preventable Disease

Julieanna Metcalf

Julieanna Metcalf

The afternoon of January 23, 2008, 15-month old Julieanna Metcalf did not wake up from her daily nap on time. She had been running a temperature, but her mother, Brendalee, assumed she was suffering from the typical cold symptoms expected during a Minnesota winter. Brendalee tried giving her daughter a bath, hoping to make her feel better, but grew alarmed when Julieanna could not hold her head up in the bathtub, similar to a newborn. Brendalee rushed her daughter to the hospital, where doctors suspected a particularly severe case of influenza. After intravenous fluids did not quell Julieanna's symptoms, the doctor admitted her for an overnight stay. At this point, the doctor decided to put Julieanna on an antibiotic that also happened to work for meningitis, a fateful decision that would inevitably save Julieanna's life.

The next morning, Julieanna's physician feared she might have meningitis and warned that she would need to undergo some invasive procedures: a lumbar puncture and a CAT scan. The doctors questioned Brendalee about Julieanna's vaccines, including whether she had received the Hib vaccine. Brendalee had protected her child by ensuring Julieanna received all recommended vaccines. When Julieanna's immunization records showed she was fully immunized, the doctors ran more tests. These tests revealed Julieanna suffered from an immune deficiency, which prevented the vaccines from working as well as they should.

When Julieanna was transferred to Minneapolis Children's Hospital, her brother asked, "Mommy, Julie's going to die, isn't she?"

Julienna endured several seizures, brain surgery to remove a mass of fluid, sleepless nights in intensive care and endless days attached to a ventilator, but was finally released from the hospital on February 15, 2008. Though she overcame the infection, she lost all motor skills, including the ability to swallow, crawl, walk or speak. She remains a full year behind in her developmental skills. Julieanna is part of a group of immune-compromised children who rely on others for protection against disease. Her immune system is still weak, and she must receive three injections a week of immune globulin to prevent catching diseases from her peers. Her mother is worried that Julieanna may never be adequately protected from Hib and other diseases.

Julieanna's mother wants to help correct the misinformation that deters people from protecting their children against deadly diseases such as Hib. Parents need to understand that when they choose not to vaccinate, they make a decision for other people's children, as well. Somebody else chose Julieanna's path. As her mother said, "I still see the scar every day; she shouldn't have had to go through this."

For more information on Hib,click here.