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Today’s mailbox: Neurodiversity and gratitude

Letters to the editor published Feb. 5, 2021

An open letter to Premier Silver and Minister Frost

I am writing this today because I have a concern about adults who are neurodiverse and are living in group homes.

I am a person who has CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome is classified as a neurodiverse disability.

I grew up in a family home in Porter Creek with my parents, Lee and Lynn Pigage and my brother, Justin. My parents helped me build natural community supports throughout my life, so I now am able to live on my own with a little help from my family and friends.

I am an active member of the community and I run my own business, Mallory’s Postering.

I believe that group homes in the Yukon do not teach the residents how to build natural community supports around them.

One of the reasons why I say this is many of my friends who are neurodiverse that live in group homes are not taught how to build these supports around them. I have heard from my friends that most group homes have very strict rules that they have to follow.

If more family homes were available and my friends lived in approved family homes or on their own, then natural supports would start to be established.

I believe that there are enough people in the Yukon that would enjoy having a neurodiverse individual living in their home. My friends would benefit from living in a family home versus living in a group home with paid government workers — that is not a home environment.

People that are neurodiverse should have a choice and a say where they want to live, like other Yukoners have the right to choose where they live and with whom they live with.

Mallory Pigage

Whitehorse

Expressing thanks for what we’ve got

Thank you, Canada, and thank you, Yukoners! We are grateful to be citizens in this wonderful country!

Both of us are immigrants. We arrived in Canada with our parents and existing family in the mid-1950s from two opposite sides of the world.

We bear the marks and memories of our history. One of us has two scars on their upper left arm, the other has two scars on the hip. They are a testament to being vaccinated for smallpox and tuberculosis at a young age.

The smallpox vaccine involved pricking the upper arm or thigh with a bifurcated prong which had a small amount of vaccine on it, repeatedly, usually 10 to 15 times. This is what created the permanent scarring. The other was from a tuberculosis vaccine. This happened over 65 years ago and the scars are still there. We never developed smallpox or TB.

The eradication of naturally-occurring smallpox in the early 1970s is one of the miracles of modern medicine. It is estimated that 200 million people died of smallpox in the 20th century. It was a horrible disease! Take a look on Wikipedia if you want to see the effects of it, but be prepared.

We lost three siblings to what we would call now regular, curable childhood diseases back in the old country.

They died, because of where they were born and there were no medical treatments at the time. They were several years old when they died.

We had a sister who developed rubella when she was a very young baby in Canada. The rubella vaccine was not in existence. She subsequently had a very high fever, which led to permanent brain damage, which affected her physical and mental abilities until she died, which was 57 years later.

We have a sister who developed meningitis at two years old and fell into a coma for six weeks. While hospitalized she was given shots, had spinal taps and other precautionary medical care. There was no meningitis vaccine available at that time.

We grew up and met people who had been permanently disfigured by polio because when they were growing up, there was no polio vaccine available. We went through elementary school and, without question, received our various vaccinations for polio, mumps, measles and rubella.

We had a good friend who died from a newly discovered virus in the early 1980s called HIV. There were no treatments available. He faded away and died. There is as yet no vaccination for HIV, but there are drugs that will significantly prolong life.

We proudly carry the Health Canada Travel Immunization record with us along with our passports when we travel. That immunization record shows that we have received 17 immunizations since we started travelling internationally approximately 20 years ago.

The immunization record includes everything from several influenza vaccinations, including H1N1 over the years, to hepatitis A and B, to tetanus and diphtheria, typhoid fever, a polio booster, yellow fever and now we have the first shot of the Moderna vaccine to add to the record. There are some countries in the world you cannot travel to unless you have a yellow fever vaccination. No doubt many more countries will require this with COVID-19. This will be the reality.

How incredibly fortunate we are, that these are all provided by our wonderful healthcare system! Even now though, many of these vaccination or treatment opportunities that we now take for granted, simply do not exist in many, many other poorer countries around the world.

Modern medicine in our part of the developed world in Canada has extended lifespans, improved the quality of life and provided significant protections to us, our children and our grandchildren, that didn’t exist before. We get vaccinated to protect the people we love; our children, our grandchildren, our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our elders, our friends and our community. Of course, the major side benefit is, it also protects ourselves.

So, in closing, we thank the many Yukoners — health-care workers, public safety workers, grocery store clerks, ambulance drivers, truckers, postal workers, janitorial personnel, security staff, essential government workers, retail service personnel and the many, many others who have tried to make our lives as comfortable and “normal” as possible during the last year. We have miles to go before we can rest, but it sure is great to have you as fellow travelers along this road.

You have done your work with professionalism, patience and in a friendly and efficient manner.

We thank you and wish to convey to you our utmost respect and gratitude for your continuing hard work.

Andrea and Florian Lemphers

Shallow Bay

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