Although she was once against vaccinations, Kristen O'Meara decided to change her tune after all three of her children came down with rotavirus, an illness that can be prevented through vaccination.
O'Meara was part of a movement commonly known as anti-vax, which believes vaccinations are unsafe, unnecessary and, in some cases, could cause autism, according to ABC News. The Chicago mother of three says she "scoured everything" the internet had to say on the matter, and then became "pretty convinced" of the anti-vaxxer argument.
That all changed when all three of her children fell ill with rotavirus, a highly contagious disease that causes severe inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants and young children are most at risk for contracting the disease and are vaccinated between the ages of 2 and 6 months to protect them from this possibly deadly disease.
O'Meara's three children, who are all under the age of 6, are now completely up to date on their vaccinations.
"It was awful and it didn't have to happen because I could have had them vaccinated. I felt guilty, I felt really guilty," she told ABC.
A similar story made headlines in April 2015 after a Canadian woman who refused to vaccinate her children had to live with the consequences when all seven of her kids came down with pertussis, or whooping cough. Like O'Meara, Tara Hills also changed her tune and quickly vaccinated her kids after the incident, The Washington Post reports.
"I set out to prove that we were right [about anti-vaxxing], and in the process found out how wrong we were," said Hills.
Both women shared their stories to warn other parents of the dangers of refusing to vaccinate children. The CDC stresses that vaccinations are safe and absolutely necessary for almost every child, a fact O'Meara now accepts.
"I put my kids at risk," she said. "I'm here because I wanted to share my personal story ... and if it does help someone change their mind, then that's great."