You might hate going to the doctor, but today’s medical care is better than our ancestors could have ever imagined. From smallpox to polio, diseases that would have terrified previous generations are now practically folklore. But progress doesn’t always move in a straight line.
Sometimes the unthinkable can strike when you feel the most safe, which is exactly what took place recently in Ukraine. Local doctors were sent into a panic when a teen contracted a deadly disease people hadn’t been worried about for centuries.
Serhiy Butenko was only a teenager, but he was already the pride of his family. Despite growing up in a small village on the Western edge of Ukraine, he had aspirations of greatness.
Serhiy dreamed of being a doctor and making a career of helping people. With that goal in mind, he left home to study at the rigorous Vinnitsa Medical University. Things seemed to be falling into place.
He was studying hard and making friends, his dream becoming a reality. But, in February 2019, his mother received some nightmarish news from the local authorities. It was the type of news no mother wants to hear.
Jonas Karlsbakk/The Barents Secretariat
Her son was dead. The next time she saw him, he was in a coffin on his way back to their small village. She was in disbelief, unsure how everything could have changed so suddenly.
“He was a brilliant boy,” she said after his funeral service. “He was the most precious thing I ever had. It was his dream to become a medic, that’s what he lived for.” The mystery of it all just didn’t make sense.
Serhiy was young and healthy, at least as far as anyone knew. What could have happened? Well, the doctors’ records revealed evidence of a disease they didn’t exactly think to check for.
See, earlier in the year, Serhiy had started to get sick. As a medical student, he could tell something was going on, so he went to get an official diagnosis. Things weren’t quite what he expected.
He was coming down with glandular fever, also known as mononucleosis. It’s a common disease among high school and college students, but Serhiy’s case developed into something much more serious.
While the infection didn’t kill him, it compromised his immune system. In that moment of weakness, another disease set upon Serhiy like a predator striking its prey. The identity of that second illness took everyone by surprise.
Serhiy came down with measles, which, in turn, brought on severe pneumonia. After a few days of intensive care, he died, simply unable to breathe.
But how did Serhiy contract measles? The disease seemed like a thing of the past thanks to vaccines. Doctors checked the teen’s medical records, where they made a strange discovery.
Confusingly, Serhiy was vaccinated against measles as a child. He should have been safe. Doctors and nurses alike put their heads together, wondering how he could’ve contracted the virus.
The answer was actually pretty simple: mono gave the measles an opportunity to spread, even with the vaccination. A booster shot could have potentially saved his life, but Serhiy never received one. Still, there was an even bigger medical concern.
The Washington Post
Ukraine was in the midst of a measles outbreak, with 38 other people dying from the disease since 2017. To make things worse, many other Ukranians hadn’t been vaccinated for several reasons.
The first was simply an issue of supply. As the Soviet Union dissolved, transportation networks suffered. Many vaccines were kept at incorrect temperatures or sat in train cars for months, making them ineffective when they reached local hospitals.
The Soviet era was also paternalistic; you simply trusted the government to take care of you. But when the Union dissolved, people had to fend for themselves. Many didn’t feel the need to get vaccinated. But there’s another, darker, reason behind Ukraine’s lack of immunity.
In 2008, a student named Anton Tishchenko had died shortly after receiving a vaccine against measles and rubella. While later analysis showed his death was unrelated to the shot, the incident still stoked a public panic.
Time has passed, but an ingrained sense of fear and skepticism still remained. In 2016, doctors found that only 31% of the population received their vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella. That was the lowest level of protection on the entire planet, even trailing behind Africa.
Today, progress is slowly being made as years of distrust wear away and people begin to understand the need for protection. Doctors are also getting some help from an unlikely source, though.
It’s Serhiy. His story is helping Ukranians realize the importance of vaccines; after his death, for example, many of his former classmates chose to get inoculated. He might not have officially become a doctor, but he’s still saving lives.
While vaccinations are the norm, there is a new anti-vax movement that calls for a parent’s right not to vaccinate their children with the fear that it is unsafe or unhealthy — and it’s had some consequences that no one expected.
Common vaccinations are those against measles, polio, HPV, meningitis, and the chickenpox. These are often given to babies and other young children, with the only exception being kids who have already been exposed to chickenpox.
See, chickenpox is a highly contagious disease with terrible symptoms, the most notable of which are itchy, sore, red little bumps all over the body. It is said that getting the pox as a child is much less painful than getting it as an adult, though most people only suffer from it once in their lives.
Because of that, parents used to throw “pox parties” back in the ’90s to ensure their child got sick at a young age, but this was not at all as safe or as effective as simply getting the vaccine.
The Center For Disease Control And Prevention has urged people to get their vaccinations if they haven’t because it doesn’t only protect the person getting it, but also those who cannot get vaccinations, like newborns and people with an auto-immune disease.
This is often referred to as herd protection or “hive immunity” because we shrink the chances of an outbreak when roughly 90% of a population becomes immune as bee colonies do naturally. That’s why most schools, workplaces, and government agencies require people to be vaccinated.
However, not everybody is happy about this type of regulation. Take Jerome Kunkel for example, who refused to get vaccinated, even as a teenager. His school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy in Kentucky, asked every student to get the shot, but Jerome refused.
With the support of his father, he protested the school’s policy and kept attending classes without being immune. Since there have been more and more outbreaks of measles, contracting chickenpox was not unlikely for the teenage boy.
Thus, after several warnings, the high school had no choice but to suspend Jerome until he got his vaccinations. After all, they would rather fight one student over the issue than risk the health of all their other pupils.
Of course, Jerome’s father, Bill Kunkle, was not pleased about the school’s decision to suspend his son.“He’s being penalized because he’s a healthy child,” Bill told the Seattle Times. “He may not ever get chickenpox.” So, along with his pastor, he planned his revenge.
A few days later, the Kunkels declared they were suing both Jerome’s school and the Kentucky Health Department because he wasn’t allowed to play on the basketball team during this time. The grounds for the lawsuit, according to Bill Kunkle, were “tyranny against our religion, our faith, and our country”.
The main reason why the Kunkels thought they could win the case was that Kentucky governor Matt Bevin himself stated he didn’t vaccinate his kids. “We found a neighbor that had it,” he said, “and I went and made sure every one of them got it. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”
While some anti-vaxxers main concerns are health-related in regards to the chemicals in the vaccines, these Catholics didn’t want to get the pox shot because it was developed from the cells of aborted fetuses in the 1960s, and the Catholic church doesn’t support abortion.
“These are deeply held religious beliefs, they’re sincerely held beliefs,” family attorney Christopher Wiest said, after regaining his license after a 2-year suspension due to misconduct. “From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it.”
In an incredible twist of irony, Jerome was infected with the chickenpox a few weeks after losing the lawsuit he filed for being suspended. Since he was still suspended at home when he contracted, it was unlikely that any fellow-students could have gotten it from him or vice versa.
The good news is, once he recovered, Jerome would be immune and allowed to go back to school. Other than his fevers, headaches, and ulcers, he said that “things are somewhat normal except … for homework I got to catch up with.”
It goes to show that filing a lawsuit because you are unhappy about a person or an organization’s decision is not always the best way to handle it. Not only will your time and money be wasted if you lose, but it might even end up turning on you, which is exactly what happened to when a man turned on his own family…
Michael Rotondo, a 30-year-old from Camillus, New York, started off his life like any other kid. He was raised in a middle-class family who provided him with all the love and support he needed to ensure his future success, hoping it was enough.
When Michael graduated from college, he took the next natural step of life: he packed up his things and moved out of his parents’ home into the real world. However, he quickly learned the real world wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
After a short period of time, Michael called it quits on trying to establish his own independence, and once again, packed up all his things to move back in with mom and dad. However, they didn’t realize just how frustratingly permanent of a move it would be.
Now, although Michael’s move back home seemed like an escape from facing reality, the job market was terrible, and the cost of housing was borderline impossible to negotiate. College students all over the country were facing the same dilemma.
At first, Michael’s mother and father were happy to give their son a place to stay rent-free while he sorted things out. But, before they knew it, years passed, and Michael had no job and no motivation to get one, even after fathering a child of his own! What started as a little bit of help was now a huge problem.
Not only did Michael refuse to seek some kind of employment, but he didn’t help with chores or contribute to any household expenditures, and he lost visitation rights with his son; he was living like a deadbeat. So, his parents, after eight years, tried one last desperate act to inspire him to get moving.
They drew up an eviction notice and handed it to Michael. The letter stated: “You have 14 days to vacate. You will not be allowed to return.” Michael, clearly rattled, took matters into his own hands.
As the days quickly counted down, Michael still hadn’t packed any of his things in preparation for the eviction. His parents gave him three more letters until finally, they had enough. This insanity would end right now.
To their astonishment, Michael sued his parents for evicting him! Michael, unable to afford a lawyer, studied the case intensely and represented himself in the hopes of continuing his open-ended stay in the family home. That said, he did have to hitch a ride with them to the courthouse.
Michael attempted to convince the judge for a six-month window to vacate the home, but the judge immediately disagreed, calling the request “outrageous.” It was time Michael faced reality head-on.
The judge’s official ruling allowed Michael to stay with his parents until their lawyer drew up a contract detailing the eviction. The only thing Michael asked was no shorter than 30 days, and his parents accepted. But Michael wasn’t done yet…
Immediately after the ruling, he began making a massive stink about the verdict. He felt he was treated unfairly, and he claimed his parents were giving him the boot as retaliation for him keeping his son from them.
His story began picking up steam with major news networks, and he gave several interviews. The problem was no one thought his parents were wrong. Michael was seen as a freeloader by just about everyone.
Alex Jones, the host of the conspiracy theory-heavy program Info Wars, actually invited Michael on and gave him $3,000 to help get him on his feet. Michael was a national story at this point, but an upsetting one.
Without a job, how exactly did Michael plan on making a living after moving out? His first move was to file another lawsuit, this time against his former employer Best Buy for nearly $300,000 because they fired him when he refused to work on Saturdays. The case was later dismissed.
Finally, the day came when Michael legally had to remove all of his belongings and hit the road. Of course, in typical Michael fashion, he didn’t leave without creating a little bit more tension, this time with his father.
After packing up his things, Michael realized he forgot a box of LEGOs in the basement, but his father refused to let him back inside. The cops were called, and with the officers present, Michael retrieved the LEGOs and drove off, never wanting contact with his parents again.
From there, Michael reportedly went to Syracuse to rent out an Airbnb for a short while using the money from his news appearances. He then planned on moving in with a distant cousin at some point.