From: NZ Herald
Alijah Williams woke up with a sunken face. Within 36 hours, the 7-year-old Auckland boy was crippled by body spasms, unable to swallow and racked with pain.
“He was screaming in agony,” mother Linda Williams said. Alijah had contracted tetanus, a potentially fatal disease which gets into the body through a wound and attacks the nervous system.
“It was hideous. He was spasming every three minutes. He was biting his tongue and bleeding. His arms were spasming and he was arching his back and his whole face and jaw was completely locked.” Mrs Williams, a healthcare worker and husband Ian, a food technologist, rushed their middle child to the Starship hospital. That night, last Thursday, a doctor suspected tetanus, which fitted with the fact Alijah had a cut on his foot, but more importantly he had never been immunised.
Alijah was admitted to a ward but 24 hours later he was moved to intensive care, put into an induced coma and paralysed by drugs to prevent the spasms and relieve the pain. His breathing had to be monitored because the muscle contractions could close the airway, and later a tracheotomy tube was inserted in Alijah’s throat to help him breathe.
The clinical director of the Starship’s emergency department, Dr Mike Shepherd, said tetanus was an incredibly painful and debilitating condition which took months of recovery. “People used to die of it a lot. If you don’t immunise against it, then it’s definitely a risk.”
Mrs Williams said they made what they thought was an informed decision not to vaccinate any of their children because of concerns over adverse reactions, but had since changed their minds.
“Our two other children were immunised last Friday.”
They wrote to Alijah’s teachers at his school urging parents to consider vaccinating their children, at least against tetanus and whooping cough.
“We’re doing this only to prevent any other kids and parents going through what we have gone through.”