My Wake-Up Call with Whooping Cough

One mother shares the story of her baby's terrifying bout with the disease.

How a Small Cough Changed My Life

Bruch family

Courtesy of Heidi Bruch

Last July 4, when I was about to give birth, I came down with a cough. No stuffy nose, no cold, no fever. Just a dry, annoying cough. Five days later, our beautiful and healthy daughter, Caroline, was born. By the time I got home from the hospital, my cough was worse. I'd have episodes where I'd cough for a minute or two straight, and then not at all. When I finally woke my husband Jon out of a dead sleep as I was gasping for air, he begged me to go to the doctor. (I had never really coughed around the hospital staff, so they didn't know I was sick.) I told him that with a newborn and a toddler at home I didn't have time, plus I didn't feel sick in the least. But he insisted, and stayed home from work with the girls while I saw my doctor. Since I wasn't showing any cold or flu symptoms, and tests indicated my lungs were getting enough oxygen, my doctor determined that the cough was a mild case of asthma and he sent me home with an inhaler, which I hadn't needed since high school.

When Caroline was around 2 weeks old, she started developing a dry cough, especially following feedings. She even vomited a few times. I called my pediatrician; the nurse told me to keep an eye on Caroline and to call back if she threw up more than three times in 24 hours.

At Caroline's 2-week well-baby checkup, I mentioned that she had been coughing and gagging during feeds, her face turning purple as if she were choking. I asked the doctor to listen to her lungs, which checked out fine. He said that the coughing and gagging was most likely a result of reflux, which is very common in babies, and warned me that it would most likely get worse before it got better.

On Sunday, August 1, we went to my parents' house for dinner. I was feeding Caroline when she started to cough and turn blue around the mouth, clearly not receiving oxygen. Thankfully, my sister-in-law was there -- she's a nurse at Children's Hospital in Seattle. She took one look at Caroline and told me that we needed to take her to the ER.

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