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Due to mother not being vaccinated, baby catches whooping cough and almost dies

Posted at 8:48 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 20:48:52-04

INDIANAPOLIS — At 5-weeks-old Kendall Shumaker was on heart, kidney and lung bypass and given a 9 percent chance to live. Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong until she was airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

More than extraordinary, truly heroic measures were taken to arrive at a victorious and glorious story for Kendall.

Now 4-years-old, Kendall is a strong, healthy little girl. But during her first few weeks on earth - that was not the case. Shortly after birth, Kendall developed whooping cough. An infection that doctors believe was developed from her siblings.

"I was a little surprised," Rebekah Shumaker, Kendall's mother of Winchester, Indiana, said. "I knew my children at home were coughing some, but I wasn't really aware of what all that entailed."

"Little babies, unfortunately, don't have the muscle strength to generate good strong coughs, so instead what happens is that when they attempt to cough they just stop breathing," Dr. Brian Leland, Indiana University Health Critical Care physician, said.

Shumaker was shocked that a simple cough could escalate this far, and wondered how this happened.

"I had explained to them that I had not been vaccinated," Shumaker said. "I have not even heard that there was a vaccination for pregnant mothers."

Shumaker says her OBGYN never asked or recommended she get vaccinated for pertussis, another name for "whooping cough."

"I certainly hope that OBs across the state and country are doing that, but there isn't a mandate to be vaccinated," Dr. Leland said. "And unfortunately, there presents opportunities for children that can't be vaccinated to contract communicable diseases that are otherwise preventable."

Dr. Leland treated Kendall when she first arrived at Riley and said all women during pregnancy should have the T-DAP vaccine, which protects against pertussis and other diseases. He also says that pregnant women should have the influenza vaccine during flu season.

It's not until 6-weeks-old that babies can get their first vaccinations, so it's up to mothers to build that immunity for them.

"There are going to be unforeseen complications in life that there's no way to predict an unfortunate or tragic event," Dr. Leland said. "But a vaccination can prevent life-threatening illnesses."

Kendall's mother is so grateful that her daughter is here today. A recommendation that she wishes she was given back then was to always remember how fragile life is.

"Just don't forget that life is fragile. And it can change in one split second."

Doctors urge that if you're pregnant, to ask your doctors about vaccines if they don't already recommend them to you.