Recommending New Zealand’s Collection of Stories: Piercing Memories

Many of this blog’s readers are hopefully familiar with the wonderful site Shotbyshot.org, collecting stories of survivors of diseases, mostly in the U.S.. Some of this blog’s interviewees also interviewed with shotbyshot.org – for example, Jan interviewed with them before posting on this blog; Renay, who shared Jesse’s story with our readers, then shared it with shotbyshot. So did Judith, here. Less familiar to you may be a New Zealand site also collecting stories, run by the Immunisation Advisory Centre, described as “a nationwide organisation based at the School of Population Health at The University of Auckland.” I found this site thanks to Madeleine Ware, who provided the link – thank you, Madeleine – and thought it would interest my readers.

The site collects stories of victims of vaccine preventable diseases, and has a collection of fascinating stories. One example is the story of Winifred, who at the age of 6 stepped on a nail and got tetanus. In a letter written shortly after the event to her grandmother, her mother describes the event. For the full version, read the story.

At some point, this happened:

“At 4pm the doctor rang us and said if we wanted to see her we must go at once because they were expecting the spasms to commence any time. We went straight away and she was as bright as a bee. She had had dozens of injections all day and a needle put in her arm and she was already stiffening. She made no attempt to move and spoke awkwardly but said she was ‘quite quite happy’ and had a nurse all to herself. As a matter of fact she had three. They took 8 hour shifts and hardly took their eyes off her. In addition the Sister was in there most of the day and the night nurse in and out. The doctor told me that the nurses had been wonderful.

“That night, at 11 pm the spasms suddenly began. They put her under anaesthetic and kept her under lightly all the time. When the spasms came on they gave her more which made them less violent. She had several in the next few hours and twitched continuously. The brain is like a hair trigger and the slightest stimulus will set off another spasm. If they had left her conscious she would have gone from one in to another and of course had worn herself out in no time.. As it was it was touch and go each time. I was told that when Doctor Butcher the son of the fire brigade man received an urgent call to the Children’s ward, the whole hospital held its breath till he came out again and said all was well.”

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