According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, the boy first contracted tetanus in 2017 when he scraped his head. Six days later, he was airlifted to the hospital after he started having muscle spasms and difficulty breathing, along with lockjaw.
When doctors at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital found out that the boy had not received any vaccinations, he was given diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) immunization, along with a medicine that contained tetanus antibodies.
The boy spent eight weeks in inpatient care, 47 days of which were in the intensive care unit, where he was put in a dark room with earplugs to lessen the severe spasms and pain he was experiencing. He also had to have a breathing tube inserted.
After 57 days of hospitalization, the boy spent an additional 17 days in rehabilitation just to be able to walk more than 20 feet. Not including helicopter transport and any follow-up care, the staggering cost of his medical expenses was $811,929.
But despite their son’s near-death experience, the anti-vaxxer parents refused his second dose of the DTaP vaccine along with any other “recommended immunizations,” the CDC reports.
“This hospitalization would almost certainly have been prevented if the patient had been vaccinated against tetanus,” Dr. Carl Eriksson, one of the physicians who treated the boy, told NBC News in an email. “Most school-aged children have received five doses of tetanus vaccine, with each dose costing approximately $30.”
It’s a concern echoed by infectious disease expert William Schaffner. He explained to BuzzFeed News, “He could get this again. Even though you had a case of tetanus you remain susceptible, so they could go through this whole experience again.
Schaffner added, “The Oregon case is a terribly painful but absolutely vivid lesson and I hope that parents listen to this story.”