Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thalidomide – A Haunt From the Past

When I was a young teen, I went to the county fair with a group of friends like most kids do. I remember the tent we walked by several times advertising “freaks”. My curiosity peaked, I wanted to check it out but my friends said, “Don’t waste your money. It’s all fake stuff, a hoax, and a rip off.” They went on some rides and I decided I had to see for myself. What I saw that day changed my life forever. There was the 2-headed cow and the little person about three feet tall. Both behind ropes so you could not get too close to see if they were fake. But, that is not what grabbed my attention. Up close, I saw an unborn fetus in a jar of formaldehyde with no arms and legs, big posters describing the thalidomide caused birth defects, and pictures of babies who had indeed been born with no arms and legs. Okay, if this was a hoax someone sure had a sick sense of how to make a buck. If it was real, then how could anyone let something like this happen? How could they not know this drug would cause these horrific birth defects? Reality or hoax, the shock factor lived in my subconscious for years.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years. Pregnant with mild morning sickness, my doctor offered a prescription to alleviate the symptoms. I shuddered although I was not sure why the suggestion prompted such intense feelings. Fast-forward about five more years. I stumbled upon an article on the Internet regarding the approval of thalidomide by the FDA (for a different use). Suddenly, it all came flooding back to me. The images of unborn deformed babies and Thalidomide Babies born with no arms and legs. No, it was not a hoax. The thalidomide caused birth defects was a very real and tragic situation that occurred back in the 1950’s and 60’s. It unsettled me for a few days as I thought of how crazy this must be. I soon put all the thoughts aside after several thankful prayers for my healthy son. Now, a few years later more news seems to be regularly cropping up about thalidomide. More applications are being discovered all the time and more countries around the world are approving it for many new uses. This time, I find I cannot put the thoughts aside. We all have an obligation to our subsequent generations to pass on our knowledge and wisdom to them. That is why I have vowed to do what I can to increase awareness of the potential consequences of this drug when taken by the wrong person at the wrong time.

For starters, I have written two articles:

The Thalidomide Tragedy – Will History Repeat Itself?

Help Avoid More Thalidomide Baby Births

I feel like we are watching a big snowball rolling downhill, gaining momentum before it finally hits the huge boulder at the bottom of the hill smashing it to bits. Let’s all work together to change the path of that snowball before it hits the boulder.


  1. Well, it was a tragedy but that does not mean that thalidomide cannot be useful in other areas. Think of digitalis, the poison coming from foxgloves which, in correct doses can be used to treat heart conditions. My concern was not with the past for I cannot change that but with the care and assistance that we could offer the victims today.

  2. Many things become highly dangerous or deadly in the wrong doses but are helpful in the correct doses.

    With thalidomide it only took "ONE" dose to create the damage it did. You are right - we can't change the past but we can change the future, starting with raising awareness of what this drug can do if taken by the wrong person at the wrong time.

    In the meantime, I also believe that the drug company and/or government should be stepping up to help current Thalidomiders more.