Parents Speak Out – Aleshya Garner
I first read Aleshya’s, and her son’s Peyton, story at Dana McCaffery’s Facebook page. What happened to Peyton and Aleshya, highlights the importance not only of vaccinating children and adults, but also the importance of adult booster shots, disseminating the right information to parents, but even more importantly that doctors themselves need to be more aware and vigilant about this disease. Words cannot describe how important her questions and her plea for awareness and action are. I contacted Aleshya and asked for permission to share their, fortunately, happy-ending story here at Vaccine Central. She gracefully agreed and without further ado, here is what happened in Aleshya’s own words (emphasis and links were added by me).
Hi, My name is Aleshya . My son, Peyton, is a Pertussis survivor. At only 6 weeks-old he developed the disease Pertussis, also known as whooping-cough. This disease caused my son to suffer through severe coughing attacks, followed by the struggle to catch his breath, which caused him to turn purple due to low oxygen levels. During each attack, I listened to my son make these awful high-pitch noises, a sound that is typical of pertussis. As a new mother, the first sounds I expected to hear from my son were small coos and giggles, not the sound of him gasping for air. I worried with every cough: will he catch his breath? The only thing I could do is coach him through it, with a calm tone “please breathe Peyton, please breathe”, while watching him turn purple.
We are not sure how Peyton got the whooping-cough, but it could have been prevented had our family been made aware that adults, as well as children, need booster shots. Just one simple DTaP (Tdap for adults) shot could have possibly prevented Peyton, and our family, from going through this horrible experience.
Not only were we uneducated about pertussis, but it took three trips to the ER for the doctors to finally admit Peyton into the ICU at our local hospital. During one of trips to the ER, the doctor told us Peyton’s condition was caused by constipation so we were sent home. After receiving many wrong diagnoses, they finally ran a pertussis test on my son. The test took about 5 days to culture. My husband and I were told for five days, by many different doctors, that there was no way our son had pertussis, even though Peyton’s pediatrician suspected it. They were sure it was the flu. The pertussis test came back positive.
I was told that, because the hospital staff did not take proper precautions with Peyton’s “possible” pertussis, every one in every department that he came in contact with was required to take antibiotics, after the pertussis was confirmed.
Peyton was discharged from the hospital after 7 days on October 25th, 2009. At that time, he was only 2 weeks into his pertussis infection, which can last for several weeks, or even months. Each day he got a little bit better; his attacks were not as frequent as they were in the beginning, but still just as severe. More and more cases of pertussis appear each day, a disease that we once just about wiped out is now coming back. As a new mother, I thought all I have to do is keep him safe from the flu…….boy was I wrong. Not in my wildest dreams, did I think that my healthy son would have to battle with such a (in most infant cases) fatal disease, at only six weeks old.
Why isn’t there more awareness out there about pertussis? Why aren’t we encouraged more to follow up on our booster shots to prevent another pertussis outbreak, to protect more babies like Peyton, to save children’s lives? To all new parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, please from the bottom of my heart, get your booster shots. It is that important, and since there is little awareness, help spread the word about pertussis. You may never know it, but it could save a baby’s life.