Monday, June 11, 2012

A Shot@Life from Mexico to the rest of the World

A Shot@Life from Mexico to the Rest of the World

I wrote this article March 12, 2012 for the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign and after that, I have many people ask me about it again and again and many wondering about my life there.  I will write about my life there some other time but now here is the story and why I am supporting Shot@Life.

I have always believed that we have a responsibility for the less fortunate and that one person can make a difference for many. I was born and raised in Mexico, then trained to work in health care as a Registered Nurse. In my 4 years of nursing school and one year of Social Service, I had the opportunity to work on many vaccination campaigns. I saw, firsthand, what a lack of access to vaccinations does to children in rural areas. I saw children die because they lived too remotely to receive required childhood vaccines and needed medical treatment.

One of my most excruciating memories is of a little child coming to the public hospital (IMSS) with tetanus. The pain and suffering for the child and the family, and for all of us attending him was horrible. It used to be quite common and heart-wrenching for those who could only watch helplessly without being able to alleviate the victim’s suffering, or to save their life.

Another time a mother came to one of our clinics with her child who had suffered for days from having the rotavirus. His little body was lifeless when his mother gave him to me in desperation, begging me in tears to help him. It was too late. When the doctor examined him, he told me: “This child is dying. If only they had brought him sooner we could have helped him and saved his life.” I took his dying body, held him very close to my heart, and cried. He died in my arms. Even more difficult, for me, was telling the mother that he was dead. She did not have any money to pay for a funeral in the city, and a long bus trip back to her village. With what little money we could collect for her, she held back her tears as she pretended her child was asleep and covered with a blanket all the way back to her village on the bus. Many times through the years I have wondered and marveled at how she traveled for three hours holding her dead child with her heart breaking in pieces with pain and agony. I cried then, and I am crying now just remembering how powerless I felt. In spite of all my training and knowledge, and that of my colleagues, it was not enough to save these children in a country without the resources like vaccines. Because of this, I saw kids die in these rural areas, and even the terrible effects of polio in the lives of many children.

As long as I can remember, I have been advocating for human rights and the basic needs of children, youth and women. When I moved to the United States, I became an advocate for education by teaching minority parents how to navigate the school system; creating programs and activities to enrich community lives; providing resources so immigrants and minorities can become involved in the education of their children and take ownership and pride in their communities.

I believe all children deserve the best education they can receive – but most of all they deserve the right to live in order to receive that education. They deserve the opportunity to be vaccinated no matter where they live. I believe in this cause! I will do everything in my power to make sure no more children die for lack of vaccinations. I want to hear no more of families seeing their children die of tetanus and other childhood diseases that are easy to prevent or cure. There should be no more children paralyzed by polio – anywhere! No more mothers sadly carrying their dead children a long way home for burial.

I am proud to identify myself as a Shot@Life Champion for this wonderful cause! Please join me in this fight and invest in a healthy world by giving a Shot@Life to ALL children.

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