After five years and four miscarriages, Katie and Craig Van Tornhout celebrated the birth of their daughter Callie. Although she arrived a few weeks early, she was truly their miracle baby. But their joy quickly turned to grief when a disease called pertussis, also known as whooping cough, claimed her life at just 38 days old.
“To an adult, pertussis can seem like just a stubborn cough, but to Callie and other newborns who are too young to be immunized, it can be deadly because they aren’t able to fight it off. In an infant, it’s likely that this disease can result in respiratory failure. IV tubes or ventilators may be needed to help a baby breathe and they are in danger of having their lungs shut down. As a mother, I can’t tell you how heartbreaking this is to watch.”
In 2012, 48,277 people were diagnosed with pertussis and the Advisory Council of Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued new vaccine recommendations advising all expectant women to receive a Tdap booster with each pregnancy, preferably in their third trimester. Not only does the vaccine help protect the mother from contracting pertussis and infecting her own newborn, it also provides maternal antibodies that can protect the newborn in those early months before the baby can be fully vaccinated.
And a lot has changed for the Van Tornhout family as well. In addition to their 17-year-old son Cole, the Van Tornhout’s have since had two other children, Chesney and Cain, with another on the way. With each new pregnancy they have taken every precaution to protect their babies from pertussis, and every opportunity to educate others about the importance of their adult Tdap boosters. Not only have they insisted that friends and family be immunized, but they’ve also ensured that every hospital staff member who has had contact with their babies was also up to date on their Tdap booster.
“We still wonder where Callie contracted pertussis. She was only five weeks old and never went anywhere except to see her doctor. I wish I had known that Callie was vulnerable to this disease and I wish I had known about the need for adult Tdap boosters. I would have insisted that I, my husband and our friends and family who came to visit be immunized. I would have asked more questions about the nurses who handled Callie in the NICU, and whether they had been immunized.” Read more…
Brady was born on November 20, 2011 and weighed in at a healthy 8 lbs., 6 oz. His parents, Jon and Kathy, thought they were taking every precaution to protect their baby. They even insisted that friends and family wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before they were permitted to pick him up. What they didn’t realize was that these actions wouldn’t be enough to protect their precious son from a dangerous disease called pertussis.
Since infants don’t begin receiving vaccinations for pertussis (also known as whooping cough) until they are two months old, they remain vulnerable to this highly contagious disease at a time when they are most fragile. Today we share Brady’s battle in the same way that his mother did; through her Facebook status updates. This small glimpse into one family’s heartbreak reminds us of how fragile a young life can be and highlights how important adult pertussis boosters are in sparing others from suffering and possibly even death.
In early January, Brady’s parents suspected that he was coming down with a cold. When his fever spiked to 104 they brought him to the ER where he was subjected to a multitude of tests, but ultimately sent home where they continued to monitor his condition.
Brady’s mother Kathy kept her friends and family updated on Brady’s condition through her personal Facebook posts.
January 9 : I hate when one of my babies are sick. Had to go to the ER on sat/sun morning because of a high temp. They ran tests and everything came back negative, thank god! Went to his pedi today. Got more blood work. It’s just a cold, no medicine. Thankfully he is fine! Hope my little guy gets better soon
January 11: Went to the pedi office this morning with my Brady pants. His breathing was worrying us. We have to do updraft treatments every few hours and go back for 6 to see the md. Poor little guy
January 15 : Home. My sis is here, bought us a humidifier for Brady for Christmas. Hopefully it will help with his horrible cough! When will this end? Its horrible having him so sick
One week later, Jon and Kathy were back at the hospital with Brady. While the staff worked diligently to help Brady, his condition was constantly changing and the uncertainty was extremely stressful. Read more…
A young married couple, Chris and Leslie Creekmore, both shared symptoms of the flu earlier this month. While Chris was able to recover, his wife Leslie, who was 20 weeks pregnant, was admitted to the hospital on January 11th.
In researching tips for a healthy pregnancy, the couple came across a recommendation to avoid the flu vaccine in the first trimester. Since their OB-GYN agreed, stating that he was wary of giving flu shots during the first trimester, Leslie had planned to get vaccinated on January 13th when she went in for her 20-week ultrasound. Instead, she succumbed to the flu and was put on a ventilator that day.
She has since been unconscious, suffering a miscarriage, a collapsed lung and a surgery to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy which provides heart-lung bypass support and circulates blood through an artificial lung back to her body.
While Leslie continues to fight for her life, Chris is speaking out and spreading this message:
Vaccinate yourself against the flu.
As I read this tragic story, I couldn’t help but see the faces of all my friends and relatives who are expecting new babies in their lives. Life is so fragile and I only wish that every expectant couple would be aware of the benefits of flu vaccine during pregnancy.
Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital where Leslie Creekmore is being cared for, explains that
“Pregnant women are five times more likely to end up in the ICU or have severe complications related to the flu than non-pregnant women who get infected with the flu.”
And while life-threatening developments like Leslie’s are generally rare, they are not unheard of.
Unfortunately, expectant couples like the Creekmores are often mislead by inaccurate information and outdated recommendations. This is why we continue to emphasize the recommendation that have been made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2004; pregnant women should receive a flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in order to protect themselves and their unborn child against serious complications from the flu. Read more…
I could hear it clearly from across the auditorium. A distinctive cough in a very small child. It was painful to my ears and I brought a sinking feeling to my heart. My daughter glanced over at me, alerted by the same sound, and we both mouthed those two horrible words…”whooping cough”.
In 2012 48,277 people were diagnosed with a bacterial infection known as Bordetella pertussis. Also known as whooping cough, pertussis can cause severe coughing that can last for weeks or even months. It is spread through droplets in the air and is extremely contagious. In fact, when someone in the house has it, virtually everyone else in the house that is not immune will also get it.
In children pertussis is often identified by the “whooping” sound that is heard as they desperately try to catch their breath between coughs. The coughing spells can be so bad that it’s difficult to eat, drink, sleep or breathe for weeks. Pertussis can also lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, mental retardation, and in some cases even death.
In adolescents and adults the disease typically appears as a bad cold with a prolonged cough and often goes undiagnosed. The classic symptoms are not always present and people don’t always know when to seek help for a cough. To make matters worse, even if a patient does visit the doctor, an accurate diagnosis of pertussis can be challenging.
Most people don’t realize that the nagging cough they have could end up killing someone’s baby. Maybe even their own.
No. Not at all.
Four years ago today, Felicia Dube brought her five-week old son Carter to the doctor for a check-up. Her only concerns were that he had been spitting up a bit and seemed cranky at night. The doctor suggested switching his formula and monitoring his crying in case it was colic. Though he seemed to improve at first, four days later Carter was running a low-grade fever. Upon returning to the doctor’s office the nurse practitioner expressed concerned about Carter’s breathing rate and hydration level and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Within days Carter was fighting for his life on a respirator, oscillator and eventually an ECMO machine. Carter’s mother Felicia recalls the horrible details as the hospital staff did all they could to provide Carter with cardiac and respiratory support. She explains,
“It was hard to stand back and look at my sweet baby boy swollen to nearly twice his original size. They had him under a heat lamp and two huge medicine trees held all of the medicines that were working to keep him alive. It is difficult to forget the machine that was also monitoring his heart and blood pressure which was constantly chiming, alarming us that something wasn’t right. It was like a bad dream where we just couldn’t wake up. We had asked the doctors to always be honest and to let us know when it got to the point that they were doing things to Carter and not for him.” Read more…
A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that Katie Couric’s new daytime television show Katie was planning to air a segment about HPV vaccine. After hearing the proposed line-up for the show it was clear that the HPV vaccine was not going to be portrayed favorably. And as expected, the conversation has blown up all over the internet in the past 24 hours with many reporters and bloggers calling out Katie Couric and her producers for how poorly they’ve handled this important conversation.
Unfortunately, daytime television ratings are driven by emotion and controversy and Katie Couric’s producers know that. So despite the overwhelming research available on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, that information was not adequately presented to the millions of viewers of her show.
But there was one other thing notably missing.
It was the voices of those who have suffered with HPV related cancers. And those family members who speak out on behalf of those lost to HPV related cancers.
Since the Katie Couric neglected to include a single cervical cancer survivor, I’m encouraging anyone who has had a personal experience with an HPV related cancer to speak out and let others know just how terrifying it has been for you. You may share your story in the comments below or send them to us at email@example.com. And I would like to encourage everyone to share your opinions of the episode with one of the show’s producers (Beth.Cochran@katiecouric.com).
Below are just a few of the HPV related stories that are featured on the Shot By Shot website. They are all very compelling and emotional and I hope that someday they will get the kind of attention that the Katie show has given to those critical of the vaccine.