A Whooping Cough Story

Brie was born on January 13, 2003, weighing only 5 pounds and 12 ounces. Brie was perfectly healthy until early one Saturday morning, February 8, when she began to have a severe cough. Her parents suspected respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and their pediatrician told them to take Brie to the ER.

The ER doctors ran some tests and decided that Brie simply had a cold, and gave her parents a prescription, sending her home. By Tuesday Brie was still coughing so her parents took her to the pediatrician’s office for a breathing treatment.

She still did not get any better, and by Wednesday evening her father and mother were taking turns sitting up with her so that they could help her when she coughed.

By morning, exactly one month after Brie was born, she was coughing so hard she turned blue around her mouth. The pediatrician sent Brie and her parents straight to the local hospital but, after watching Brie pass out after another violent coughing fit, he made the decision to Helivac Brie to a larger hospital.

A Misdiagnosis

When Brie arrived at the hospital, tests revealed she had severe acid reflux, and the doctors thought that she was choking on her milk. They decided a surgery would correct the problem, but when Brie came out of surgery the coughing had still not stopped.

The doctors tested her for pertussis (also known as whooping cough) and decided to treat her for the disease while they waited for the test results to return. The test results came back positive, but the treatment wasn’t given early enough.

The first machine they put Brie on was a ventilator. When that did not help, they decided to put Brie on the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine. This helped her breathe and helped her heart so that her body could try to heal.

She then started to leak fluid into her tissues, and this caused her to blow up to about ten times her normal size. She was put on dialysis and also had a tube put in her stomach to help release some of the fluid. She finally began to show signs of recovery as well as some activity in her brain, until it began to bleed.

Because she was on ECMO she also had to receive heparin, which is a blood thinner. The thinning of her blood caused the bleeding in her brain. It clotted later that day, but then the opposite side of her brain began bleeding.

The Last Goodbyes

The doctors had to take Brie off the ECMO machine. On March 6, they called Brie’s parents to explain their daughter’s situation and give the family enough time to come and say their goodbyes to her.

Brie’s mother held her one last time and rocked her while Brie’s father read her a story. She lived for about 30 minutes after they turned off the machine. She was only 52 days old and just 7 days short of receiving her 1st DTaP shot.



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