I am compelled to share my story about Whooping Cough (also know as Pertussis) and how frightened I am about the announcement from the California Dept. of Health declaring the Pertussis has reached epidemic status. I want our story out there so that others who find themselves facing a child or themselves inflicted with Pertussis can get information and seek the correct treatment. I am a firm believer that as a PARENT you are your child’s ADVOCATE and that you MUST TRUST YOUR INSTINCT when it comes to their care.
Californiahealthline.org posted “Yesterday, California health authorities declared an epidemic of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the state, the New York Times reports (McKinley, New York Times, 6/23). Since January, the state has confirmed 910 whooping cough cases and five infant deaths resulting from the highly contagious respiratory disease. Authorities are investigating 600 additional cases that could be classified as pertussis (Linthicum/Lin, Los Angeles Times, 6/24). The number of confirmed cases is more than four times higher than the number recorded at this point in 2009, putting the state on pace for the worst outbreak of the disease in 50 years, according to the San Jose Mercury News (Messinger, San Jose Mercury News, 6/23).”
In August of 2007 my daughter was 18 months old when she came down with a cold and a strange sounding cough that quickly developed. I brought her to the pediatrician several times and left with the same diagnosis each time upper respiratory infection. We were told that simple does of antibiotics, a warm mist vaporizer and increased fluids would do the trick.
You need to know a little background on my health care choices for my daughter as well. From the moment this child was born I have been EXTREMELY conservative in my choices for her as far as vaccinations and the use of antibiotics go but THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE STORY (we checked her records and her pediatrician confirmed) she was vaccinaed with a new diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine at her age she would have had 2 or 3 out of the 5 so technically she was not immune. I breastfed her exclusively for exactly 1 year. I never started foods early and I rarely broke out the Tylenol. It wasn’t until last fall that I caved and agreed to a few vaccinations the preschool required (and yes I am fully aware that I have the right NOT to vaccinate my child and send her to school). I consulted more than one pediatrician about my choice as well as our family practitioner. I should also disclose that I am married to member of the medical community and sometimes it amazes me that we are able to co-parent because we are polar opposites sometimes with his scientific right brain – need concrete proof- by the book- thinking pattern. I get it opposites attract but when it comes to parenting with viewpoints on health care as extreme as they are you can imagine we don’t agree often on how to treat our kids (medically) and 3 years ago it wasn’t much different.
Two weeks into this “cold” our daughter began to wake up in the middle of the night sit up and violently cough often throwing up mucus and then gasping with each inhale. Exit the catarrhal and enter paroxysmal stage. We knew it wasn’t Croup because she was not “barking” on the exhale she was making sounds like someone with a closed airway (whooping) on the INHALE. There was also something else going on, when she was coughing her lips would turn blue. I started to suspect that we were dealing with Pertussis after a midnight phone call to the wonderful staff on the After Hours Nurse-line at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). When I described what was happening to our daughter their main concern was that she was getting enough oxygenated blood to her brain. They explained that the congestion in her lungs was preventing the air sacs fully expanding making it hard for her body to oxygenate her blood. “The brain can an only survive for 3 minutes without air” was all I could think about. Needless to say we never really slept soundly for the next 6 months.
We went back to our doctor and this time I firmly stated that I “knew” that we were dealing with something more than a cold. I was told that is was Bronchitis because she was partially vaccinated for Pertussis and that no one we knew had Pertussis (which is such a weak argument considering we had a nanny who was taking her to the park almost daily so who knows what child or adult could have been infected with it.) She was diagnosed with what they called “reactive airways” and we were the new owners of a home nebulizer complete with steroids and bronchial dilators (Xopenex). While the breathing treatments seems to quiet the cough she still continued to decline. A few weeks later the high fever hit and soon after we learned that she now had pneumonia in one lung. More breathing treatments, more steam baths, more antibiotics just lead to more problems including diarrhea (which Lactobactillus helped tremendously FYI).
I know I asked for her to be tested for Pertussis and I was told that there was only a 2 week window to achieve an accurate positive result and because she had been sick for over a month it just wasn’t possible. Nothing could change my mind at this point I knew my daughter was suffering from pertussis. Problem was her coughing fits were happening at night not the doctors office – KIDS OFTEN SEEM FINE IN BETWEEN COUGHING FITS. When we went to a well known Pediatric Pulminologist (lung specialist) same thing, she barely coughed or wheezed while we were there again sent home with a refill prescription for inhaler meds that we already had, dead end. And just like clockwork the minute I would strap her in to her car seat a coughing fit would ensure… oh the agongy if only I could made her cough on cue.
It wasnt until one night after hours of googling whooping cough I came across a video of a child diagnosed with Pertussis. As soon as I watched it I started to cry… that was MY baby. I “knew” in my heart that we were dealing with Pertussis. I began to read late into the night about this extremely contagious airborne disease. I knew we were in for a very long recovery as the Chinese refer to it.. the 100 day cough and they were right. My daughter coughed for 3 months but it didn’t end there. Enter the California wildfires of 2007. One wildfire came within less than a mile of our home, our daughter asleep in her crib, our son hiding in his room my husband watering down the back yard and mom in the front. It was THAT close! You can only imagine the air quality after. For weeks it was hazy and smokey and soon the cough returned and again within a month she had pnemonia and was put on the breathing treatments 3 times a day for weeks on end. It wasn’t until January that her cough finally went away another 100 days later almost to the day!
3 years later it does not surprise me that its back. One thing I learned during this was that this disease is its cyclical and it reappears every 3-5 years, the last known outbreak was in 2007 <– same year my daughter had it. The question is do we as parents vaccinate ourselves with the booster? Statistics show that children contract Pertussis from adults who may once have had immunity but now do not. My husband emailed me asking what we were going to do my knee jerk reaction was to type back in ALL CAPS… HE** NO! I’m a vitamin taking, vegetable eating, yoga practicing healthy adult… why would I knowingly inject a virus into my body? Can’t I just achieve herding immunity as part of that subgroup who indirectly receives immunity because others achieve immunity? Please?
To this day my daughter still has the “cough” she has been diagnosed with seasonal asthma but we know that its really a year round condition for her. If she gets a cold it will get ugly and we have to watch her carefully. We try our best to wait on using steriods as long as possible but at 2 am sometimes its the only thing that will allow the spasmotic bronchi to rest and subsequently the rest of us. With the introduction to preschool you can imagine the year we have had. She’s passed out at my feet as I write this after a long night of wretching. The poor girl just cant make it a month without falling ill. Is it because of Pertussis? I don’t know. There are so many super bugs out there I would make myself crazy if I thought I had a chance at protecing her from everything. I would though however be very careful if you live in Southern California and you have a child under 18 mos. and if I had a baby under 6 mos. I would be very careful about who I came into contact with and where I took my child. I can’t provide any medical advice obviously but I can share a list of sites that I book marked while researching the topic.
Jennifer Lopez recently made this PSA (Silence the Sound of Pertussis) with a message about adult vaccination which for me is not one I follow but I do agree on awareness so I am including her PSA in the post. My push is FOR AWARENESS I think too many doctors are reluctant to formally diagnosis this and I don’t know why.
Video of child with whooping cough click here.
the sound of Pertussis
All statements made on this blog solely my my opinions and experiences. Nothing on this website is intended as personal or medical advice or direction nor intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease of any kind. All of your medical advise should be obtained from a licensed physician.
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