The first thing I must say is that I am fit and healthy at 64 years old. Luckily, it turned out.
It started on a Tuesday in early August. I had been working hard all day as a digital consultant and, upon arriving home exhausted, I went straight to bed.
The next morning, I was coughing and miserable with a temperature of 38°C. He had lost his sense of taste and smell, but the Covid test came back negative. The next day my temperature was higher, barely controlled with paracetamol.
On Friday it rose to 39c. I was plagued by the worst cough I have ever experienced and sneezed over and over again. I called 111, who told me to take paracetamol after asking me a series of totally irrelevant questions such as, was I bleeding?
I felt more and more scared as I gasped for air for the first time in decades. So I staggered to the GP. Not a doctor who knows me, but a young man who asked no useful questions, didn’t have a single idea and sent me home with the same useless advice about paracetamol as NHS 111. I explained that I had never felt so bad, but my symptoms were dismissed as “just a virus” and I was made to feel like I was making a fuss over nothing.
Cue weekend from hell. On Sunday my temperature rose to 40°C, very high for an adult. He had long since stopped eating; Even drinking water was difficult because the inside of my mouth and throat hurt so much, it was bright red and peeling off.
The Daily Mail reported on the dangerously low uptake of the MMR vaccine in May 2023: in Hackney, for example, only 60 per cent of five-year-olds received both doses (file image)
The first thing I must say is that I am fit and healthy at 64 years old. Luckily, it turned out. In the photo: Josa Keyes.
I called 111 again. Same usual questions about heart attacks and strokes, but at least they gave me an appointment with the GP for Monday.
Small, terrifying purple pinpricks had appeared all over my chest and cheeks. With meningitis in mind, I pressed a glass of champagne against them, but I couldn’t tell if they turned white or not. At that moment, he was not thinking clearly, he went in and out of sleep.
On Monday I found a mask that had been left over from the confinement. Not knowing what was wrong with me, I tried to stay away from people. All I wanted to do was lie down on the cool floor but, by sheer force of will, I stayed upright.
I saw another unknown GP, who was not concerned, even though I showed him my rash.
But I found the strength to insist that he refer me to the hospital, then I stumbled out and booked an Uber to the ER.
After about an hour, a nurse let me lie down in a side room; My temperature was around 40°C and they immediately put me on a drip because I was very dehydrated.
One of the first questions I was asked was, have you had the measles vaccine? I knew better, as my brother (four years younger than me) was vaccinated at age eight in 1970, but for unknown reasons, I wasn’t.
Nutrients that work best together. This week: selenium and sulforaphane
Sulforaphane is a plant chemical that is released from vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, and kale when we chew them. Selenium is a mineral found in Brazil nuts, crab, fish, and poultry. Both nutrients have cancer prevention benefits that are increased when consumed together.
ATTEMPT: Turkey and watercress sandwich; steamed broccoli sprinkled with chopped Brazil nuts; or sautéed cauliflower rice with salmon.
My condition steadily worsened. By then my nose and red eyes were filled with what looked like hot gravel.
The purple pricks on my chest and face turned into a hot red rash that slid down my body. My oxygen levels had dropped to 89 percent (normal is 95 or higher), so they tried giving me a nasal cannula. With the gravel up there it was agony, so I ripped it out. The oxygen mask was only slightly more comfortable for my sore face.
Three days passed and no one seemed to know what was wrong with me: all the blood tests and chest x-rays came back negative.
My three children put on a brave face but were very scared. My oldest son took four days off and came in the morning and afternoon. My daughter dropped off her little girl and came to sit with me and read me ghost stories.
At one point I woke up to find a doctor next to me saying that they were doing everything they could to diagnose me and that they were going to take me to intensive care if things didn’t improve.
There was a terrifying moment where I threw my head back and choked as my swollen throat closed and I couldn’t breathe. I coughed my way back to life.
Then finally, five days after my admission, I was starting to feel a small positive change for the better, when the diagnosis came.
At a recent hospital follow-up, the doctor told me that it can take that long to diagnose measles, since the samples must be sent to a reference laboratory. Measles has become so rare that few people have seen it or can identify it now.
After that first question when I came in, measles had not been mentioned. Unlike Weil’s disease (I was repeatedly asked if he had swum in a stagnant pond; you get it from rat urine), or hives, or some scary autoimmune disease.
Finally, five days after my admission, I was just beginning to feel a small positive change for the better, when the diagnosis came. Measles (file image)
Until Andrew Wakefield’s totally discredited report in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism, even though he wasn’t vaccinated, herd immunity was high and he was relatively safe.
My children and my two grandchildren, thank God, had received MMR. I have always been very supportive of vaccination, but it never occurred to me to get it myself.
But thanks to Wakefield, the damage to herd immunity and the public’s lack of confidence in vaccination accelerated. As we know, it carried over to Covid, and over 1.5 million adults in the UK refused to take the vaccine.
The Daily Mail reported on the dangerously low uptake of the MMR vaccine in May 2023: in Hackney, for example, only 60 per cent of five-year-olds received both doses.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world.
In July, Public Health England had announced an outbreak in London, where I contracted it.
If I had been aware of the outbreak, I would have ordered the MMR vaccine. In my experience, at least one friend has already received the vaccine.
Because without MMR, there is a risk of infecting a pregnant woman with rubella and endangering her baby. Children can become infertile if they contract mumps at the wrong time. And measles can cause serious complications, especially in children. Since the introduction of the vaccine, 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK.
I hope I will be okay, although there may be lasting effects.
Three weeks after I was discharged, the doctor warned me about post-viral fatigue. It will be a while before I go to a party, work all day, or run 5Ks regularly like I used to.
Whatever your age, check your records and memory. If you have the slightest doubt about whether you have had the vaccine or not, I would reserve a MMR.
Spread the word and get us back to the 95 per cent vaccination coverage target for herd immunity across the UK.
It will help prevent people of all ages from becoming seriously ill and could save children’s lives.