Steph Branson: Immunization Advocate

Branson posing for the camera

Kindergarten is an exciting time for both parents and little ones going off to school. As I prepared my soon-to-be five year old son, Bowser, with the normal book bags and supplies, I was also preparing to send a child with an off-and-on again immune system to school. Because, I know my son is not fully immunized, many thoughts filled my head:

Will everyone’s immunizations be up-to-date?
Will the school care that he is immunosuppressed and help us make sure he is safe?
What will happen when he gets sick?

Bowser had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is a type of blood cancer. Three long years of chemotherapy meant that we had to figure out how to get him educated and keep him safe at the same time. We discussed our options of home schooling or waiting a year and starting him in kindergarten when he turned six instead of five.

All I wanted was for my son to live a somewhat normal life and grow up with friends just like all the other kids in the neighborhood who, because of his cancer, he had never met. Having a two-parent working household and a toddler, we just couldn’t give him a fair education at home.

My wife and I bravely went into the school to have a meeting with the principal, school nurse, and two of his teachers to discuss Bowser and the other students’ immunizations. As I sat around that table and we all brainstormed how we were going to keep him safe and healthy at school, I saw the fear in both the nurse and teachers’ eyes. A child with cancer can be very scary if you are responsible for him. I understood that, but I pushed that he would be starting school on time with his peers and we would not be waiting.

Together we came up with a school health plan and the school nurse promised to have as many students’ immunizations up-to-date as she legally could. The school even hired a retired nurse to be a teacher’s aide in Bowser’s classroom.

Bowser is now Cancer free and is getting prepared to start the third grade. He is doing fantastic health-wise and is able to get his MMR and Varicella vaccines this month!

If you’d like to share your vaccine story, join Hoosiers Advocate today!

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