Precious children, parents’ agony and lessons that could save lives

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s the thing. To lose one child through death is excruciatingly painful enough. It’s something no parents should have to go through. 

But can you imagine losing two children under eerily similar circumstances? It’s simply unimaginable. No words can describe it. And yet that’ exactly what parents, Karl Joseph and Christine Laulu, of Apia, have had to go through.

Figuratively speaking, they have just had their hearts ripped from them. 

You see, just over two years ago, they had just graduated from tertiary studies, secured themselves jobs before deciding to tie the knot. The young couple lived for the day they would welcome their first baby. 

It happened when they were blessed with Jamie Ray. He was everything to them. That was until he reached the age where he was required to be administered the MMR vaccination. He was taken to the hospital to have his MMR vaccine administered where things quickly took a turn for the worst. Jamie Ray, who had previously been a very healthy boy, reacted to something in that vaccine. What that is remains unknown. 

Sad to say, despite the hospital and the family’s best efforts – including an operation – Jamie-Ray died. It was devastating. 

It took a long time for the young couple to recover from the loss but they finally found enough strength to have another baby. 

A year later, they were blessed with Alana-Rae, this time a baby girl. Again, she became the centre of their world, which they had slowly begun to rebuild. 

If they were careful with Jamie Ray, they were even more careful now with Alana-Rae. Things were going well and certainly looking up. 

But then that time for the MMR vaccination came around again. Ever so careful, the parents this time administered the vaccination at a private doctor. 

And then the unimaginable happened. Alana-Rae’s body reacted to the vaccination and it was like deja vu. Again the family tried everything they could to save Alana-Rae’s life. This time, with the help of the Government, Alana-Rae was evacuated to New Zealand’s Starship Hospital. 

A few days later, she passed away. It was possibly the worst day in the lives of the young parents – and many of their family members and loved ones who could only look on. What do you do? And how does one react to such a scenario?

Now the doctors have since said that both Jamie-Ray and Alana-Rae might have had a rare life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder, which reacted to the vaccine.

As you are reading this piece, Karl and Christine Laulu, have remained in New Zealand in their quest for answers. It’s understandable. If you were in their shoes, what would you do? 

In the meantime, they came forward last week to share their grief when the news emerged of the deaths of two babies at Safotu Hospital after they were administered the MMR vaccine.

If there is anyone who can understand the pain the two families in Savaii are going through, it would have to be the Laulus. Not one but two babies from very similar circumstances.

It’s too early to draw conclusions about what happened to the Laulu’s babies. And we would hate to think it could be remotely connected to what happened at Safotu last week.

When the Laulus spoke out last week, the parents wanted to emphasize that they do not blame the vaccine for what happened. They also do not blame the local hospital or anyone. If anything, they are grateful to the Government and all the assistance they have received so far.

But all they want are some answers.

We couldn’t agree more.

The fact is the MMR vaccine has many benefits that have served Samoa – and many other countries around the world – for so long. People have to be careful that we don’t draw unfounded conclusions about the vaccines without a proper investigation and data to support it.

Looking at the Laulu’s case though, we cannot help but wonder. 

Could a proper investigation by the hospital into the death of Jamie–Ray have saved the life of his little sister? If what they are saying is true that the brother and sister had a rare life-threatening immunodeficiency, shouldn’t that have been discovered prior to Alana-Rae being administered the MMR? How many other children in Samoa have died from similar circumstances? 

Let me remind you again we are talking about precious lives here. The loss of these young lives should not be in vain. The lessons learnt would be best utilized to avoid more losses and subjecting more parents to the agony the Laulus have had to deal with. 

What do you think?

Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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