This week, it was with no small measure of satisfaction that I watched Andy Burnham, our implausibly youthful Health Secretary, squirm on the GMTV sofa.
Andrew Castle, it must be said, is no Jeremy Paxman. So when Mr Burnham agreed to take part in the show to discuss the alleged merits of Tamiflu (how it sticks in my craw even to write those words) he was doubtless looking forward to putting across the Government’s point of view in the gentlest of surroundings.
What ensued was an ambush, as the visibly irate presenter revealed that his daughter Georgina had collapsed and nearly died after taking the supposedly harmless drug.
Mr Burnham, for his part, burbled some platitudes about Tamiflu being ‘our main line of defence’ against swine flu, and how it was a ‘different phase of the illness’ when Georgina was prescribed the drug.
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Oh really? Perhaps Mr Burnham would have liked to come round to my house and explain the merits of Tamiflu to my three-year-old daughter as she sobbed and retched in my arms night after night.
While he was at it, perhaps he could take the time to scrub our sitting room floor, once James, our exhausted 15-month-old boy, had vomited so many times that his tiny stomach could heave up nothing but bright orange phlegm.
This is to say nothing of the raging fevers, nightmares and hallucinations which plagued both our children until we decided they could take no more.
The effects of swine flu? Not a bit of it. My wife and I are utterly convinced that all these symptoms were, quite simply, the vicious side effects of Tamiflu.
Full disclosure: my wife, Jennie, was instrumental in making sure Mr Burnham appeared in public to discuss the issue. The previous night, she had appeared in the lead item on ITV’s News At Ten to exhort all parents that they should think long and hard before giving Tamiflu to their children.
Having witnessed the damage wreaked by the drug at close quarters, we would never make the same mistake again.
It is difficult to explain the gutwrenching feeling of seeing your children suffer, when their pain is a result of your decision. And yet, like any responsible parents, all we wanted was to protect them.
In following the Government’s advice, we thought we were taking the cautious route. How wrong we were.
August 17, 2009