Heather’s Story

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With every cough, I felt like a cartoon character who got bonked on the head and saw stars!

Heather_Pertussis

Jan 7, 2011 I came down with a persistent cough that would not stop. After consuming a large bottle of Robitussin over that week and nothing helping my cough, I visited the ER. They sent me home with prednisone pills, antibiotics and an inhaler. The medical team I saw told me I had a respiratory infection—most likely bronchitis.

But the medicines did not help me feel any better and my cough was horrible. With every cough, I felt like a cartoon character who got bonked on the head and saw stars!

About a week later I went back to the ER and told them I wasn’t getting better and that the coughing made me feel like I was going to pass out. They said, “Heather, we can’t find anything wrong with you.” They gave me a new inhaler and sent me on my way.

chestxrayI was really scared because I knew something was wrong with me.

The next day at work I coughed so hard that I did pass out during a training class and was taken by ambulance to the same ER I had been to the day before! This time, they did a chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia. Again, they told me they couldn’t find anything wrong so they just sent me home.

Two days later I was still coughing—and seeing stars. I was still trying to go to work, but that day I left work early and to go home and get in bed. I was weak and exhausted from coughing all day and night for weeks already!

Heather_pertussisBruiseOnce I got home, I went to the bathroom. The next thing I know, I woke up lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood. I had passed out again. This time, I hit my face on the bathtub during the fall. My face was totally swollen and I was bleeding.  Now, I went back to the ER and this time they kept me.

I was in the hospital for 8 days. I had blood work in the morning and again in the evening. In addition to my cough, I had broken the orbital bone under my eye during my fall.  Though all of this, I still couldn’t stop coughing.
I can’t even find words to explain the pain every time I had a coughing spell. I coughed until it felt like every muscle in my body was ripped up and every rib felt cracked.

Heather_PertussisShotinArmFinally, when I was out of the hospital a week, the local health department called me and told me test results revealed I had Pertussis!  I thought back on all those weeks, that turned into months, when I was sick. I realized that if I’d blacked out from coughing while driving, I could have died or killed other people!

Even though the doctors didn’t think to test me earlier for pertussis, this disease is way better to prevent because treatments don’t work so well. If you take anything from my story, know this: That was the worst 90 days of my life!!! My lungs still are not healthy as they were before because the pertussis did irreversible damage.

I want more people to know about this disease and to understand that adults need pertussis vaccinations too!

 

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I use Shot By Shot stories in our clinic to illustrate how...

Laura Harbage, PHN
Chester County Health Department, West Chester, PA
Chair, Chester County Immunization Coalition