It was early November of 1954. A cold front had pushed its way into northeast Louisiana, striking the balmy air before it, producing lightning, thunder and bone-chilling rain. The country road was narrow and substandard, like so many in the rural state. Mary Rose tried to quell her apprehension by counting the number of times the wipers swished between each contraction. There still seemed to be time. Her destination was a hospital in Monroe, the closest town of any size. At the age of 23, she was about to give birth to an autistic son.
Only hours earlier, the possibility of getting to the hospital in time appeared bleak. Her family-owned car clanged a few times, but refused to start this particular night. While her husband Glen opened the hood and cursed the engine, she eased her swollen body out of the front seat and made her way to the nearest neighbor's house, a half-mile away.
She roused a bleary-eyed man with three days growth of beard obscuring his features. He peered out at her.
"Please, Sir," she said in a high-pitched voice, "will you take me and my husband to the hospital?"
He stared at her a long moment. The smell of whiskey was strong on his breath. "Okay. I got my keys around here somewhere," he said as he staggered toward his chair.
Some thirty minutes later, he came out the door. Mary Rose heaved herself awkwardly into the man's old Ford pickup truck. They paused in front of Mary Rose's trailer house long enough to pick up Glen, her husband; then the old truck bounced along through the darkness as the baby squirmed inside her.
Somewhere along the way, the drunken chauffeur drove his truck into the ditch.
Glen snarled as he looked over at her. "I'll just stay here. I sure wouldn't want to get mud on my new boots," he mumbled.
Mary Rose glanced at him, momentarily closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then opened the door and stepped into the muddy water. With great effort, she crawled out of the ditch and stood upright on the roadside. It was only misting now, but she still shivered in her soaked smock. She stared down the lonely, flat highway. Moments later, headlights illuminated her awkward figure, and a car slowed to a stop beside her.
A kind voice hollered, "Can I give you a lift to town?" An elderly Black man leaned out of the window as he awaited her reply.
Mary Rose smiled widely and nodded. "Oh, yes. Thank you!"
Politely, the gentleman stepped out of the car and opened the rear door. Mary Rose scooted in with a deep sigh; she would reach the hospital in time after all.
Except for a "minor" bout with German measles during her second trimester, her pregnancy had gone well. Little did she know that this particular virus could have permanent consequences in causing her unborn baby to have autism.
Many experts now think that rubella is one of several potential causes of autism. The immune system is thought to respond by triggering the production of interferon, which then inhibits infected cells from reproducing until such time as the antibodies and T-cells arrive. However, on rare occasions, the interferon protein is somehow able to cross the blood/brain barrier of the fetus, enabling it to interfere with development of key areas of the base of the brain. (1)
(1) Shaw, W. Interview with Dr Shaw about microbial metabolites in autism and other developmental disorders [Online]. Available HTTP: http://www.autism.com/shaw- yeast/interv.html
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