Whipping Whooping Cough
When you live in the Northwest, a cough isn't something you generally worry too much about. You stock up on throat lozenges and hope it goes away soon.
Heidi Bruch was no different. When she started coughing last summer, she was days away from giving birth to Caroline, her second child. She wanted to spend time with her toddler, not go to the doctor.
BACK TO: Childhood Immunization Initiative
Fast forward four weeks: Caroline starts to cough. The coughing quickly worsens. She turns blue during one episode, meaning no oxygen is reaching her brain. This realization turns into an emergency trip to the ER, six days in infant ICU, and 17 days in Seattle Children's.
The reason? Pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
"I thought I was up to date on all my shots. I couldn't figure out how this had happened," Heidi remembers. "Then I learned I needed a booster shot to stay current. I learned I had given my own baby a potentially deadly disease."
Heidi, like thousands of other Washington state residents, didn't know she was putting herself, her family, and her community at risk. Missed booster shots mean chemotherapy patients, the elderly, and newborns like Caroline who can't get immunized until they are 8 weeks old find themselves in a precarious situation. They can't protect themselves. They count on others to keep them protected.
"We don't see these diseases anymore because the immunizations have been so successful," explains Group Health's Dr. John Dunn. "But they still exist. And the unacceptably low rates of immunization in Washington, and other parts of the country, are alarming."
"I don't want other mothers to go through this," says Heidi. "I want everyone to know how important booster shots are!"
Heidi's big lesson: One little shot can make a big difference.
With all the acronyms and medical-ese, an immunization schedule can be confusing. Here's the deal:
For more information, see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.