(Author: M. O’Callaghan)
I hate being wrong. I like to think it doesn’t happen that often, but there are times when I am completely and utterly wrong that pain me more than most. When I watched a YouTube video by a woman calling herself The Patriot Nurse, I didn’t believe that the star of the show could possibly be that which she claimed: a registered nurse (RN). My belief proved to be wrong, so this is not the story I thought I’d be writing.
The video – now gone – entitled, Why this nurse WON’T vaccinate, ran for approximately nine and a half minutes – though, watching it, it felt a lot longer. In it, an attractive young lady, with a lovely southern drawl details why she, as an RN, would never vaccinate children under the age of two. Her reasons are not based in science. Her reasons or not based on good logic. Her reasons are an echo of each of the ever evolving and mutating arguments of anti-vaccine websites such as Age of Autism, with a smattering of Natural News nonsense. It’s the toxins. It’s too much for the developing immune system to bear. Vaccines cause autism.
MMR fraudulently linked to causing autism The “toxins” the Patriot Nurse is so concerned about are no such thing. Toxins are made by living organisms. What she refers to are, indeed, poisons such as mercury and aluminium which are present in vaccines (in the case of mercury in a compound called thimerosal) in tiny quantities. This patriotic lady, it seems, had never been acquainted with the adage and truism that it is “the dose that makes the poison.” She states that it is never acceptable to inject a six-pound baby with a poisonous substance. In large enough doses, all medicines and even vitamins are toxic yet, at the correct dose, they are therapeutic. The “immunological overload” the Patriot Nurse fears can occur if the USA’s vaccination schedule is followed is dwarfed by challenges a baby’s immune system faces and overcomes every single day or even on its journey through the birth canal.
And autism is caused by vaccines. No credible study by credible scientists published in a credible journal has ever found a link. Of course there was the infamous 1998 paper by fraudster and abuser of autistic children, Andrew Wakefield that didn’t show any link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination and autism. He certainly proposed that link in the circus that was the press conference heralding the study. No team, except ones in which Wakefield has been closely connected, have ever replicated his findings.
Internet rumours began to fly as the Patriot Nurse’s video went from anti-vaccine group to anti-vaccine group, her errors being applauded and her courage commented on in the most sycophantic of terms. The video was also circulating the interwebs on pro-vaccine sites where the questions were raised: who is this woman and can she really be a nurse?
Rachel Greene AKA the Patriot Nurse
Whois provided a name: Rachel Greene. Google provided a possible work place and a photo resembling the Patriot Nurse: The Lisa Ross Birthing Centre, Knoxville, Tennessee. This vehemently anti-vaccination nurse could be working with new parents and passing on advice that could endanger the health and very lives of those who, I have no doubt, as a hands-on nurse, she cares for.
Although around 94% of American families vaccinate, the numbers choosing not to are concentrated in relatively small areas and demographic groups. Recent research has shown that those least likely to vaccinate are the well to do upper middle classes. Herd immunity relies on high vaccine uptake with an even distribution of non-vaccinated persons. These enclaves of the unvaccinated have opened the flood gates for vaccine preventable infections such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough) to make a comeback. Both diseases can be deadly, especially in those too young to be vaccinated against them.
The Patriot Nurse’s alleged identity was now a quickly spreading internet rumour. Some reported the speculation on blogs while some individuals sought confirmation by posing questions on the birthing centre’s Facebook page. The enquiries were quickly removed as were any comments on the Patriot Nurse’s page alluding to her true identity or not in 100% support of her anti-vaccine lies. In pursuit of the story, I emailed the birthing centre directly and then, things got ugly…“A certain bunch of pro-vaxers have decided to engage in intimidation tactics. My employer was contacted and attempts have been made to effect [sic] the loss of my job,” complained the Patriot Nurse again on Facebook. So much is wrapped up in that statement. She believes there is some great conspiracy against her. What a paranoid patriot nurse! Secondly, she totally misrepresents the content of the letter if she had seen it. But most importantly, she tacitly confirms that she is, indeed, the Rachel Greene of the Lisa Ross Birthing Centre.
There was a cascade of comments and I even posted up a link to the full text of the e-mail and though that remained for over half an hour, supporters – some notoriously credulous anti-vaccination propagandists included – continued to cry “conspiracy!” Though Ms. Greene, as we can now safely call her, ensured no dissenting comments remained on her page she wasn’t so diligent in removing direct threats of violence. Someone might wish to, it was suggested, burn down my property just as another’s had been when they had dealings with a different “prepper.” Website Shot of Prevention was inundated with comments from people who, it seems, cannot click on a hyperlink. Dissent came thick and fast with each making up his or her own version of the e-mail (or phone call as they imagined it).
I was now being held up as a slanderer (even though libel would be the appropriate call if there had been any unfounded conjecture or allegation) and when that didn’t stick, a benefit cheat – a parasite blighting society (because I have a severely autistic child and could be entitled to financial help as a result). Not once, among the cries of “free speech” and sickly praise for this nurse who demonstrated nothing but ignorance of essentials of science, did anyone stop to think that, had this turned out to be the story I thought I’d be writing “YouTube Crank Poses as a Nurse to Warn Against Vaccination,” each and every one of her supporters for her anti-vaccine diatribe would look even more foolish. In this conspiracy-theory generating group whose affection for child abuser and fraudster, Andrew Wakefield, who are willing to follow the advice of limited actresses like Jenny McCarthy and Polly Tommey over that of highly trained and experienced paediatricians, I wonder, would it really have mattered?
That Rachel Greene works with neonates and their parents does matter. I have to take issue with many people who, like me, are of the conviction that vaccines are one of the greatest human achievements and have have spared people unquantifiable suffering. There was an instant assumption that Ms. Greene herself wasn’t vaccinated and could, therefore, pose a risk to those with whom she works. I think those suppositions were a secondary issue and such information was never sought. What was important, to me at least, was whether or not this woman was in truth an RN and if the birthing centre was regularly giving out advice that runs counter to public health policy and public health full stop. I doubted it as their links page could take you to the March of Dimes websites in both English and Spanish.
Her employer, who never replied to my enquiry, required that Ms. Greene remove the YouTube video. She complied, much to the chagrin and even disappointment of her fans – some of whom she undoubtedly lost that day for her instant capitulation. She did so only after alerting her followers that she would have to and so it’s still there on other channels besides her own should anyone care to seek it out. She posted another video which was only available for a short time: “What really happened.” It sort of was. In it, she did nothing to dispel the rumours generated by the conspiracy lovers and spent a good portion of it railing against vaccines once more. I doubt that’s quite what her managers at the Lisa Ross Centre had in mind. In one fell swoop she had cast them as bullies depriving her of the right of free expression.So now, the Patriot Nurse is still as patriotic as ever. Her latest release is on smallpox – a disease last recorded in human beings in 1979. She agrees that it has been “eradicated” in air-quotes. That eradication is due, in no small part, to mass vaccination. Fear not though! Should smallpox be used as a bio-weapon just get a good curry inside you – according to the Patriot Nurse, tumeric will sort you out. Why did I ever doubt her credentials?
Huge thanks to Nerditorial editors Matt and Jeff for their support for this article.