Brady’s Battle with Pertussis
Apr 25, 2012
This post has been updated on January 28, 2018 to include new information about maternal Tdap vaccination.
Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. People of all ages can be affected by pertussis, but it is most dangerous for babies.
Since infants don’t begin receiving their own series of pertussis vaccination (DTaP) until they are two months of age, they remain vulnerable to pertussis at a time when they are also the most fragile, and it is up to us to help protect them.
When adolescents, adults and pregnant women receive their Tdap booster vaccine, they not only help protect themselves, but they also help reduce the spread of the disease to young children. It’s especially important for expectant women get a Tdap booster during each pregnancy (preferably between the 27th and 36th week) so that they can pass antibodies on to their unborn baby. This provides critical protection against whooping cough until that baby is able to get their own series of whooping cough vaccinations (DTaP) at 2 months of age. Tdap vaccine also protects mothers during delivery, making them less likely to transmit whooping cough to their newborn, which can easily occur.
In an interview with WWLP News out of Chicopee, MA, Barbara Stechenberg, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Baystate Children’s Hospital, explains
“One of the important things to know is most babies who develop whooping cough get it from an older child or an adult in the family,” said Dr. Stechenberg.
It only takes one tragedy – like that experienced by Jonathan Alcaide and Kathy Riffenburg, who lost their son Brady – to remind us that we can help protect one another from this highly contagious disease.
Brady was a healthy and happy baby when he was born on November 20, 2011. As excited as they were about his arrival, they thought they were taking every precaution with their son. They even insisted that visitors wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before they were permitted to pick him up.
But then in early January, they noticed Brady was coming down with what they assumed was a cold. When his fever spiked to 104 they brought him to the ER where they completed a multitude of tests. They finally sent him home, requesting that they keep an eye on the cold.
Kathy kept her friends and family updated on Brady’s condition through her own Facebook posts.
January 9: I hate when one of my babies are sick. Brady 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, they were back at the hospital. While the staff at BayState Medical Center worked diligently to help Brady, his condition fluctuated daily, as observed through Kathy’s continued Facebook updates.
January 16: Well Brady is being admitted to BMC for his breathing. We have a room in ICU for babies/
January 17: Brady is still having a high respiration rate. Not a change. I feel he’s getting worse. 🙁 I guess this particular virus this is what we can expect …worse before better.
January 17: Hhhhhhhh……wish he was better now :_(
January 17: Daddy went home to be with the girls and let them sleep in their own beds. Just me Brady and the Bruins ♥ hopefully we have a quiet night… on a good note his breathing is getting better and he even gave daddy a smile before he left! Keep the prayers coming. They are being heard! High possibility no breathing tube will be needed.
January 17: Guess who’s awake and feeling a little better ♥
January 17: A little smile he is saving them all for the nurses little flirt! — with Jonathan Alcaide.
January 18: Yeah they are going to try to give my little bruiser some food! When he wakes up I can or Jon whichever is here, a bottle 🙂 Its been well over a day and a half since he’s eaten ♥
January 19: This has been a long long journey. I don’t ever want to go through this again, and wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy. Brady is doing ok. Unfortunately he can’t eat on his own. We have to put the feeding tube back in because oral feeding is too much right now for the little guy 🙁
January 20: Well 2 months ago I had my handsome little boy ♥ and today is day 5 in the pedi ICU, hopefully good news will be coming our way.
January 21: My shift back at the hospital with the baby ♥ just wish we were out of here and home snuggling watching the snow fall as a whole family 🙁
January 21: It’s hard when you see everyone coming and going from this unit, seems everyone but Brady is getting better 🙁 When will it end? Just want to bring my son home.
So tired and exhausted hopefully some good news tomorrow.
January 22: Don’t want to jinx but Mr Brady pants is being weaned off his oxygen flow. Dr. Duda the respiratory md says he sounds and looks great and we soon can start the feedings back up 🙂 Keeping positive my little guy will be out soon.
January 23: Brady is still doing the same. They finally after 8 days started him on antibiotics. They think its whooping cough. The min we can leave is 5 days! This is the worst experience I ever had to go through 🙁 So thankful to have Jon. We are side by side holding each other’s hand balancing this and the girls. Boy, after this we need a vacation.
January 23: So now they have to place a breathing tube 🙁 keep praying for my baby ♥
January 24: They are switching out the ventilator because his body wasn’t responding like they wanted it to; his carbon dioxide level was on the high side. Now they are starting him on heliox system…my poor baby just looks so still. I can’t wait till this crap is done and over with. 🙁
January 26: Just to let everyone know Brady’s status is not getting better not worse but we have a team of attendings that are going to be taking on his case with the md that he has had…they are assessing him now and going to brainstorm on what is going to happen next. Just want my baby back 🙁 Healthy.
At this point there was little that Brady’s parents could do but hope and pray that their precious boy would get better. However, Brady’s condition grew desperate and on Juanuary 27th, Brady was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Boston. He passed away the next day, just barely 2 months old.
January 27: We are now at Boston’s Children Hospital. Brady is in critical condition. His heart stopped and they had to give him compressions…we are waiting to see him. They put him on a heart and lung bypass machine. They are worried about brain injury; please pray he will be a healthy boy playing baseball someday. I will try to update as much as I can.
January 28: Brady Robert Alcaide 11/20/11~1/28/12 May the angels carry him home ♥
Kathy and Jon were stunned by what had happened. Their once healthy son had succumbed to a fast-moving, fatal disease and it wasn’t until after Brady was gone that they received confirmation that the diagnosis was pertussis. As Kathy explains,
“People don’t think much about diseases like whooping cough these days. I never would have imagined that this could happen.”
Now Kathy and Jon are determined to educate everyone about the importance of adult Tdap boosters and the more recent recommendations for maternal Tdap vaccine that weren’t in place before they lost their son. To help prevent this sort of tragedy from happening to other families, they have become regional advocates for Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family and have started a Facebook page called “Brady’s Cause” where they’re asking people to pledge to get vaccinated.
You can take the vaccination pledge on “Brady’s Cause” Facebook page here.
Let’s let Kathy and Jon know how much we appreciate them sharing Brady’s story. We are grateful to all our family advocates who continue to spread the word about the importance of adult and maternal Tdap boosters. Together we can hep protect babies from pertussis.
Note: This content originally appeared in Vaccinate Your Family’s Immunization Alerts e-newsletter, sent March 31, 2021. You can sign up for future alerts on our website. April 9, 2021: An update was made to...
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