At three weeks old, Nola Defoort began to cough, and at first Courtenay mom Kaely Caissie didn’t think much of it.
Nola is Caissie’s fourth child, and added she has seen her share of colds and sniffles.
It wasn’t until Nola’s coughing became laboured when Caissie took her to her doctor’s office, and soon after it got progressively worse.
“…we went to the hospital for observation. As soon as she was hooked up to monitors it was really apparent that she was really sick. She would turn blue when she was coughing. It was so violent. Her lips would go blue and she would be purple.”
Caissie said Nola’s heart rate would go from 130 beats per minute to 35.
“Everything would slow down; it was horrifying.”
The next morning the family was airlifted to hospital in Victoria, as Nola was diagnosed with pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough.
“We got there and the doctor made it really clear that babies die from this. And my heart sank because I had no idea how bad it was going in. It was brutal.”
Doctors told Caissie Nola was the ninth case of whopping cough recently diagnosed in the Comox Valley.
She knows Nola contracted it after birth, but doesn’t know where or how she got the disease.
According to Island Health, whooping cough is on the active outbreak list at hospitals and long-term care facilities. It causes violent coughing which can last for months. It can spread easily from one person to another, and according to HealthLinkBC, getting the pertussis vaccine can help people avoid the disease, make it less severe and prevent it from spreading to those at risk.
Nola is now four months old, and Caissie said while infants can’t receive the immunization until they are two months old, and she understands there are debates about vaccines, she asks parents to make a true, informed decision, and know all the facts.
“You Google anything and you’re going to find information both ways. And that’s fair, and I don’t think anyone is trying to hurt other people’s kids, but the reality is, that’s what happens.
“And as someone who loves babies, I just want the babies to be safe, and want to know everyone’s kids are going to be safe.”
While Nola continues to cough, Caissie noted “it’s nothing like it was.”
“(At the time), I was just in survival mode. I learned how to take care of her … but you’re not doing much. It’s helplessness because you just want her to be OK.”
For more information about whooping cough, visit healthlinkbc.ca and search pertussis.