Infant Survives Pertussis After Four Organs Fail
Aug 28, 2013

Kate-and-EllieCloudWhen a child is born parents experience a combination of joy, relief, hope and even a healthy dose of worry.  Every parent wants to keep their precious children safe, and thanks to the availability of vaccines, parents can now prevent as many as 14 different diseases by the time their children are two years old.  However, it’s important to realize that until a child is fully immunized, they remain at risk of contracting these dangerous diseases and therefore must rely on protection from their families and community members.
KateAndEllie2Kate and Ellie are twin girls who were born healthy and happy on January 5, 2012.  As recommended, they received their DTaP vaccine at two months of age. This vaccine was the first of five doses they would need in order for their bodies to build immunity to diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).  Before completing the full vaccination series, children like Kate and Ellie remain susceptible to dangerous diseases like pertussis. And unfortunately, when the girls were just 14 weeks old, their family realized just how important disease prevention is and just how life-threatening pertussis infection can be.
Ellie’s battle with pertussis began in April 2012 with what was described as a cough.  When the pediatrician realized that her lung capacity was down to 82% of normal, she was quickly admitted to the local hospital and put on oxygen.  Then, as her mother explains “things spiraled downhill pretty fast”.  They suspected Ellie may have pertussis and while they she was awaiting an ambulance transport to Boston Children’s Hospital, doctors had to swarm the room and intubate her.
Ellie’s mother describes the ordeal in excruciating detail on the Shot By Shot website:

“…the doctors told us Ellie’s lungs were failing fast, her heart rate was dangerously high, and the fluids that she was getting through her IV weren’t getting to her organs. Whatever was attacking Ellie made every cell in her body “leaky.” They moved Ellie to the ICU.”
Ellie_whooping-coughBy Sunday evening the medical team told us that Ellie was in complete respiratory failure and our last chance of survival was to try a heart lung bypass machine called ECMO. Ellie’s lungs were bypassed, but as the hours passed, Ellie’s blood flow turned to sludge. Her kidney and liver function had virtually stopped.
At 4:30am Tuesday morning, the doctors explained that they now also needed to bypass Ellie’s heart. And to do this, they had to briefly take her off the ECMO machine even though her lungs were completely failed. I kept wondering how much more her little body could take. I kissed her before the procedure. Her skin was stretched taut from being so swollen. Her body was the size of a two year old. I thought I was saying goodbye. “

Despite the fact that four of her organs had failed, Ellie miraculously survived the procedure.  The following day doctors performed a full body exchange of Ellie’s blood to reduce her colossal amount of white blood cells and eventually her kidneys and liver began working.  Then, after 25 long days on the ECMO, Ellie’s lung function had finally improved enough to move her to a regular ventilator. Ellie’s struggles were not over and she continued to progress through weeks of rehab and months of physical and occupational therapy.
KateAndEllieECMO3Ellie’s story reminds us that no parent can ever predict what diseases their children may fall victim to and how their bodies may respond.  Pertussis is a serious, life threatening disease for an infant and although Kate never contracted pertussis, and her sister Ellie was fortunate enough to overcome it, many other children have lost their battles.  Sadly, in 2012 there were 41,880 confirmed cases of pertussis in this country which resulted in 15 infant deaths.  For every child that died, there were hundreds of others who suffered like Ellie.
As Ellie’s mother explains,

There were so many days at Ellie’s bedside feeling completely useless.  I worried that my baby could die at any moment, and wondered what her quality of life would be like if she survived this horrible ordeal. I remember telling another mom whose child was in the ICU that my daughter was on life support because of Pertussis.
She said, “Pertussis? Who gets Pertussis nowadays?”

The truth is that just about anybody can get pertussis these days.  As parents, we vaccinate our children so that we can significantly improve their chances of avoiding this dangerous disease.  There’s even a study which concluded that an unvaccinated child is 23 times more likely to suffer with pertussis than a child who has been vaccinated.  So who wouldn’t want to increase their child’s odds of avoiding the life-threatening ordeal Ellie experienced.
Since studies show that 80% of infants who contract pertussis are getting infected from someone in their family, it’s important that parents, grandparents, siblings, and all relatives and caregivers receive a Tdap booster vaccine.  And, to reduce the risk of pertussis in new mothers and their very young infants, the CDC now recommends that pregnant women receive Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.  As Ellie’s mother explains,

“Before living through this, I would honestly never have believed how bad pertussis can be. …Pertussis changed Ellie’s life and our lives forever. If there is anyone reading this now that might doubt the importance of vaccinations for infants and adults, hopefully my story will change your mind.”

Please share Ellie’s story to help educate people about the dangers of pertussis and the importance of infant DTap vaccine and adolescent and adult Tdap boosters.  You can also visit the Shot By Shot website to view more personal stories of vaccine preventable diseases.

Related Posts

This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben.  A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...

Every Child By Two asks you to join in urging Congress to protect crucial funding for immunization programs.  Politics aside, if and when the Affordable Care Act is repealed, nearly $600 million in funds...

11 responses to “Infant Survives Pertussis After Four Organs Fail”

  1. marie says:

    I am glad that your daughter is doing better and glad that you are one of those parents who do vaccinated. When I read of parents who do not vaccinate and blame every disease on vaccinations without realizing the damages that can cause to their children and other children around them. Some diseases that was once under control is making a come back and attacking those who are vaccinated. When a serious outbreak happen again as in the pass then these parents will see and understand the fears the parents of past had to endure sadly at the risk of seeing their own children catching these diseases. It is not fun at all.

  2. I would like to know more of this case and the vaccines received and when and the lot numbers as ther eis a similar case in South Africa where the parents are both risking life in prison for just the same story but with the hospitals taking a different view of events.
    Vaccines are unavoidably unsafe and thats not from me but one of the worlds top vaccinators. (Dr Stewart)
    For the good of the rest of us line?
    This child had vaccines and yet got the very illness the vaccine was supposed to prevent.
    In the SA case death prevented Baby A from going on to get a vaccine to prevent measles and all.

  3. Lawrence says:

    @Nicole – hmmmm…let’s see – the babies had received but a single dose of the necessary vaccine, which meant that exposure to Pertussis would most like still result in an infection.
    Also, with that horrible case in South Africa (where the parents killed their child), please explain how a child can play normally for two weeks with long-bone fractures? So yeah, pretty darn strange that you are convinced that vaccines can break multiple bones in multiple parts of the body – oh yeah, and have that happen over the course of several weeks.

  4. Sara Jo Poff says:

    As a mother of six, my heart breaks for what this baby went through as well as her family. It breaks my heart also to see this article used to push vaccines when even according to both the CDC and the vaccine package insert, the pertussis vaccine can cause people to actually get whooping cough and even be silent carriers of the illness. A quick search of news articles from the last couple years shows that the majority of those infected with whooping cough in recent outbreaks were in fact vaccinated. Not to mention that parents with multiple children are exposing their youngest to these illnesses when they get their older children vaccinated due to shedding. Read the package inserts that specifically state that the vaccinated patient should not be around immuno-compromised individuals (babies and elderly) for a certain time frame after being vaccinated. The illness is making a comeback specifically as a result of vaccines, not because of the unvaccinated.

  5. Lawrence says:

    @Sara – I find this quote from your website to be particularly ironic:
    “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” Hosea 4:6
    You ignore the Science behind the safety & effectiveness of vaccines – not to mention bearing false witness by repeating the same lies, misrepresentations and misinterpretations of data used by the anti-vaccine contingent.
    I really don’t think you are following the tenants of your “religion” not to mention your blatant advertising & providing “medical” advice on your website (despite the boilerplate disclaimer).

  6. Chris says:

    Sara Jo Puff, the package inserts are not scientific data. They are lawyer written bits that mention everything, but leave out the relative risks.
    Could you please post the PubMed indexed study by a qualified reputable researcher that shows the DTaP is more dangerous than pertussis. Here is an example: Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story.
    It compares the levels of pertussis in various countries with different vaccine policies. You’ll notice on the third page it explains how bowing to anti-vaccine pressure Japan stopped pertussis vaccination. And the result was over forty babies died.

  7. Janice Zak says:

    most cases of pertussis have been in those who have been vaccinated!

  8. Chris says:

    Ms. Zak, okay. We know it is imperfect, and wears off. But even getting pertussis does not mean you will be immune, because the immunity can wear off in as little as four years:
    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005 May;24(5 Suppl):S58-61.
    Duration of immunity against pertussis after natural infection or vaccination.
    Though still those who are vaccinated still have a lesser chance of getting pertussis:
    Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51.
    Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children.
    The reason that is seems like more who are vaccinated get pertussis is because there are more of them. If you separate the two groups, you will see the ones that are unvaccinated have a higher percentage compared to those who are. Let me explain with some community immunity arithmetic:
    Take 1000 people (ignoring the infants under 2 months who cannot be vaccinated, or babies under a year who can only be partially vaccinated), if 5% refuse vaccines then the numbers are:
    950 vaccinated persons (assuming full schedule)
    50 unvaccinated persons
    The pertussis vaccine is actually only 80% effective at worse, so the numbers are:
    760 protected persons
    190 vaccinated but vulnerable persons
    50 unvaccinated persons
    There is an outbreak and it gets spread to 20% of the population, then:
    760 protected persons without pertussis
    38 vaccinated persons get pertussis
    152 vaccinated person who may still get pertussis
    10 unvaccinated persons get pertussis
    40 unvaccinated persons who may still get pertussis.
    This is how more vaccinated persons get the disease than unvaccinated. Even if the infection rate was at 100%, there would still be more of the vaccinated getting the diseases because there are more of them!

  9. Lawrence says:

    @Janice – Math & Statistics Fail………

  10. Vilma says:

    Thankfulness to my father who stated to me about this weblog, this blog is
    actually awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.