MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minnesota mother is pushing all parents to vaccinate their kids after a case of whooping cough put her baby in intensive care for nearly a month.
"This didn't have to happen and we're so, so fortunate that we have a happy ending but it could have been so much worse," said Emily Stevenson.
Her baby, Everlee, is four months old now. Even this early on, she's already found her voice. Those who know her are sure she's making up for lost time.
"It was awful. It was awful," Emily said.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, a note came home from their 9-year-old daughter's class. The Stevenson family was told a child in her class had pertussis, or whooping cough.
Meanwhile, Everlee seemed to have a cold.
"I just had this horrible feeling that, 'could this really be pertussis?'" Emily remembered.
Emily's fears were confirmed at the hospital. For more than three weeks, her 5-week-old baby struggled to breathe, hooked up to oxygen and a feeding tube in the ICU. Her heart rate often dropped from 150 to 15 beats per minute.
Doctors told Emily the disease is so contagious her daughter likely brought home the bacteria on her clothes. This happened just weeks before Everlee would have been given the vaccine.
While Dr. Mark Schleiss did not treat Everlee's whooping cough case, he is troubled by the growing trend of parents who choose not to vaccinate.
"Vaccine refusal has led, unfortunately, to a lot of severe illness and even death in children," Schleiss said.
State data analyzed by the Associated Press in November reported 6.5 percent of Minnesota families opted out of shots before kindergarten. Many people blame personal reasons.
"I think our role is to make sure families have knowledge of the truth of the real information. Not only about the safety of vaccines, but the severity of the diseases that we're trying to prevent," Schleiss said.
The Stevenson family knows how serious it can be. Emily is on a mission to tell anyone who will listen, and if Everlee could talk she's sure she'd say the same thing.
"I just want to tell every parent to have their kids vaccinated. This didn't have to happen," Emily said.
Doctors say whooping cough can sometimes attack children who haven't received the recommended dose of the vaccine. Kids should get five doses by the time their six. The shot can be given all the way through age 65.
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