HOME
ABOUT IAC
CONTACT
A-Z INDEX
DONATE
SHOP
SUBSCRIBE
Immunization Action Coalition
Unprotected People Stories 
General
Chickenpox (varicella)
Diphtheria
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hib
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Influenza
Measles
Meningococcal
Mumps
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Pneumococcal
Polio
Rabies
Rotavirus
Rubella
Shingles (zoster)
Tetanus
Yellow Fever
Stories by Disease
Stories by Number

Unprotected People Stories: Chickenpox

Chickenpox Claimed the Life of My Son Christopher

Click here for a fully-formatted PDF version of this story
I have faced the worst nightmare any parent can possibly face. There is no experience on earth that compares to the horror and devastation of losing a child. It is shattered dreams, crushed wishes, and a future that suddenly vanishes before our eyes. It cannot be wished away, slept away, prayed away, or screamed away.

It is darkness, agony, and shock. It leaves our hearts  broken, bleeding, and bursting with pain, and it changes us forever. 

My life changed forever on June 30, 1988, when I had to stand by helplessly as an infectious disease claimed the life of my oldest child, Christopher Aaron Chinnes, at the age of 12.

Christopher was a beautiful little boy who had light blonde hair and deep, brown eyes. He was full of compassion, joy, and energy. He loved baseball, and every living creature on the earth. He wanted to be a scientist or doctor. I can honestly say that my son was one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever known, and I am proud to have been his mother. 

Christopher was born a very healthy child, but at the age of eight he developed asthma. It was never a problem for him, and it never kept him from doing the things he loved. But on June 16, 1988, four years after he was diagnosed, he suffered his first and only severe asthma attack. He had to be hospitalized and was treated with all of the normally prescribed drugs, including corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs used in asthma, arthritis,  allergies, etc.).

He was released four days later with several medications to finish at home, and he was well on his way to recovery. On June 23, exactly one week after the asthma attack, he broke out with the chickenpox. "Don't worry, you'll get  over it," I told him. What I didn't know was that the corticosteroid had lowered his body's immune response and he could not fight the disease. The chickenpox began to rampage wildly through his young body. As I drove him to the emergency room on June 27, my four younger children watched silently in shock and horror as their brother went into seizures, went blind, turned gray, and collapsed due to hemorrhaging in his brain. That afternoon Christopher was flown from Camp Lejuene's Naval Hospital to East Carolina University's Medical Center, but the chickenpox was uncontrollably sweeping through him like a wildfire, and there was nothing anyone could do. 

The next day Christopher suffered a cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma. As my beautiful little boy lay swollen beyond recognition and hemorrhaging from every area imaginable, including out into the blisters on his skin, I learned that a vaccine existed, but was not yet licensed by the FDA. A vaccine that could have prevented the unimaginable suffering of my child, and all who knew him. 

On June 30, 1988, exactly one week after breaking out with chickenpox, Christopher passed away. He died. He wasn't injured. He wasn't left acting differently. He wasn't crippled. He died. My priceless little boy lay on a cold  steel table, swollen beyond recognition, cold, and dead. Gone from me. Gone from life itself. I cannot hold him, kiss him, see his smile, or listen to his laughter as he chases a ball or bullfrog. 

Instead, I visit a grave. The chickenpox virus destroyed every organ in his body, and it cut pieces from the hearts of everyone who witnessed its devastation. 

No one is sure just what dose of corticosteroid it takes to lower an individual's resistance, and most people on these valuable drugs do well when they get the chickenpox. Without knowing for sure though, who would want to take a  chance. Do not take anyone off of corticosteroids suddenly! The drug has to be withdrawn slowly. Consult your doctor for more information, and don't get scared, be informed. 

Please don't get the impression that only those who are immunosuppressed can have problems with chickenpox. Anyone can. In fact about half of those who suffer complications or die each year are normal healthy people. 

Vaccines prevent countless deaths each year. Without them the number of valuable human beings we'd lose would be staggering. Yes, sadly, some injuries and deaths occur as a result of vaccines, but unfortunately, there are risks with every single drug we use. We have and will not ever reach perfection. We must remember that the benefits of our vaccines far outweigh the risks. Especially for those who are ill or immunosuppressed like Christopher was. There are innocent children and adults who come in contact with the public everyday who would die if they were exposed to the diseases we can prevent. If everyone around them is vaccinated, they are also protected. We owe it to them and to ourselves as a nation to achieve the highest level of protection possible. We must win the world-wide war against infectious disease, and vaccines are our most powerful weapons. We cannot win, however, if we do not use them. Leaving any population unprotected is like surrendering to a defeatable foe. We must never surrender!

Christopher's mother, Rebecca Cole, passed away in 2007. Her Congressional testimony is no longer available online.

 
11/16/99 • STORY #21
Disclaimer: The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) publishes Unprotected People Stories for the purpose of making them available for our readers' review. We have not verified the content of this story.
 
This page was updated on November 16, 1999.
This page was reviewed on November 16, 1999.
 
- Guide to immunize.org -
A-Z INDEX
ABOUT IAC
IAC in the News
Staff
IAC History through Film
ACIP
RECOMMENDATIONS
ADOLESCENT VACCINATION
ADULT VACCINATION
ADULT VACCINATION GUIDE
ASK THE EXPERTS
Administering Vaccines
COVID-19
COVID-19 & Routine Vac
Hepatitis B
MMR
Storage and Handling
>> view all
BECKY PAYNE AWARD
BILLING & CODING
BIRTH DOSE GUIDEBOOK
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
CDC INFORMATION
CDC SCHEDULES
CLINIC TOOLS
Administering Vaccines
Adolescent Vaccination
Adult Vaccination
Screening for Contraindications
Storage & Handling
Vaccination and COVID-19
Vaccine Recommendations
>> view all
COALITIONS FOR
IMMUNIZATION
CONTRIBUTE TO IAC
COVID-19 RELATED
Ask the Experts: COVID-19
Ask the Experts: COVID-19
   & Routine Vac
Clinic Tools: Vaccination and
   COVID-19
Repository of Resources
Vaccines: COVID-19
DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTERS
16-year-old Visit
HPV
MenACWY Dose #2
DONATE TO IAC
EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
EMAIL NEWS SERVICES
E-NEWSLETTER: IAC EXPRESS
EXEMPTIONS
FAQs
FAVORITES
FDA PACKAGE INSERTS
FILMS ABOUT IAC
GIVE BIRTH TO THE
END OF HEP B
HANDOUTS FOR
PATIENTS & STAFF
View All Materials
Administering Vaccines
Adolescent Vaccination
Adult Vaccination
Contraindications / Precautions
Documenting Vaccination
Healthcare Personnel
Managing Vaccine Reactions
Parent Handouts
Pregnancy and Vaccines
Q&As: Diseases and Vaccines
Q&As: Easy-to-Read
Schedules for Patients
Screening Checklists
Standing Orders Templates
Storage & Handling
Strategies & Policies
Temperature Logs
Top Handouts
Vaccine Confidence
Vaccine Recommendations
>> view all
HEP B BIRTH DOSE
HONOR ROLLS
Hep B Birth Dose
Mandatory Flu Vaccination for HCP
MenB Vaccination for Colleges
IAC EXPRESS
Subscribe to IAC Express
IMAGE LIBRARY
LAWS AND MANDATES
MANUFACTURERS
MASS VACCINATION
RESOURCES
NATIONAL ADULT &
INFLUENZA
IMMUNIZATION SUMMIT
NEWS & INFORMATION
NEWSLETTER SIGN UP
OFFICIAL RELEASES
ACIP
CDC
FDA
PACKAGE INSERTS
PARTNERS
PHARMACISTS
PHOTOS
POWERPOINT SLIDE SETS
PREGNANCY AND
VACCINES
PRESS ROOM
PROTECT NEWBORNS
FROM HEP B
PUBLICATIONS
IAC Express
Vaccinating Adults:
   A Step-by-Step Guide
Hepatitis B What Hospitals
   Need to Do to
   Protect Newborns
Needle Tips Archive
Vaccinate Adults Archive
Vaccinate Women Archive
REGISTRIES
SCHOOL VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS
SHOP IAC
DVD Immunization Techniques
Laminated Schedules
Patient Record Cards
Flu Vaccine Buttons and Stickers
"Vaccines Save Lives" Pins
SITE MAP
SLIDE SETS
STANDING ORDERS
STATE INFORMATION
Immunization Websites
Laws and Mandates for School Entry
Immunization Program Managers
SUBSCRIBE TO IAC EXPRESS
SUPPORT IAC
TALKING ABOUT VACCINES
Adjuvants & Ingredients
Autism
Importance of Vaccination
MMR Vaccine
Religious Concerns
Vaccine Safety
>> view all
TECHNICALLY SPEAKING
TRANSLATIONS
IAC Handouts
VISs
TRAVEL (INTERNATIONAL)
UNPROTECTED PEOPLE
STORIES
Chickenpox
Hepatitis B
Measles
Whooping Cough
>> view all
VACCINATING ADULTS:
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
VACCINE INFORMATION
STATEMENTS
Translations
VACCINE
MANUFACTURERS
VACCINE POLICY &
LICENSURE
ACIP
FDA
WHO
VACCINE SAFETY
VACCINE TIMELINE
VACCINES
COVID-19
Hepatitis B
HPV (Human papillomavirus)
Influenza
Pertussis
Varicella
>> view all
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
VIDEO LIBRARY
VISs
Translations
WHAT'S NEW OR UPDATED AT IAC
Handouts
VISs and Translations
Web Pages
 
Immunization Action Coalition  •  2550 University Avenue West  •  Suite 415 North  •  Saint Paul, Minnesota  •  55114
tel 651-647-9009  •  fax 651-647-9131
 
 
 
This website is supported in part by a cooperative agreement from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (Grant No. 6NH23IP22550) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. The website content is the sole responsibility of IAC and does not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.