News from Idaho SILC

Like many people with disabilities, I have a healthy mistrust of the U.S. medical system. My mistrust is based on a lifetime of mistreatment; having been institutionalized when I was younger, pushed from ‘specialist to specialist’ in an effort to fix me. As an adult without medical insurance, I often went without medical care. Then I acquired an indeterminate virus that rendered me a paraplegic.  Since then, the typical medical office has become an even less welcoming place – glaring lights and tightly packed waiting rooms with little room to maneuver. It would be 15 years before I saw an exam table I could transfer to with or without help. Even now, it’s rare that a medical practitioner will poke or prod what ails me, because that would mean a transfer.

I’ve always loved science-y things. Science is reliable. It’s not black and white. Science tests and tests again and changes with time and research. Although I’m not a fan of medical science because it often puts people like me in a box to be fixed, and if not fixed then hidden, it also gave me my wheelchair and medications that enhance my life and give me freedom to pursue the life I choose.

I trusted science when I got vaccinations from the school nurse. I remember the fear in my mother’s voice when talking about kids with polio; how her family moved from Chicago to Phoenix due to a polio outbreak when she was a girl. She was hit with scarlet fever as a child, needing to relearn to walk.

I was initially afraid to vaccinate my kids. What if the unthinkable happened and my kid was crippled as a result of my parental choice? But I talked to my doctor, read a lot and both my kids were fully vaccinated without complication beyond fever, crying and crankiness.

The few people who have serious reactions to vaccines makes it more important that we get them to help protect those who cannot. The reason my kids and grandkids don’t have smallpox vaccination scars is because the disease was eradicated – because enough people were vaccinated. Vaccination is a shared responsibility to people (those I know and love) and my community (those I don’t know and may not even like).

Because of my job I was appointed to the State of Idaho Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SIDMAC), and the state’s Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory committee in 2020. I learned the vaccines weren’t really rushed, they just streamlined the process. They do not change my DNA, or contain live virus. It provides immunity, and even if I get a breakthrough case, I am much less likely to need hospitalization. You can learn more, visit the CDC or talk to your doctor or another trusted source. Don’t rely on social media. COVID-19 is deadly searious and not a case for Dr. Google.

Independent Living is about supporting each other. It’s about living our best lives, learning new things, and not going through scary stuff alone – peer to peer support! I chose to get vaccinated after I learned more and weighed the risks. I’d rather risk a shot and protect my life, the lives of my loved ones, and friends who can’t get vaccinated and the larger community. Independent Living doesn’t tell us we don’t need people; that we are independent of each other. It tells us that with mutual caring and support, we are part of the community. We are independent and we need each other now more than ever to look out for our communities.