Dragana Petrovic is celebrating the holidays this year without her 3-year-old daughter, Nadja, because her daughter died from Measles in April. In January, Nadja went to the hospital for scheduled treatment for her autoimmune disease. Hospital staff placed a patient infected with measles in the same room. Due to Nadja’s autoimmune disorder, she had not been vaccinated for measles. Within days her exposure to measles, Nadja tested positive for measles. Nada died three months later from measles.
Dragana remembers Nadja as a sweet and loving child. Nadja had boundless energy and moved like she had a motor. She climbed, jumped, and loved playing with her sister. Dragana said Nadja loved to eat. If Dragana let her, Nadja would eat all day.
When Nadja was born, doctors and Dragana believed she was healthy. She received her first set of vaccine at six months old. For the first year, life seemed to be relatively typical for the young mother and baby.
However, at 12-months old, all of Nadja’s hair fell out within 24 hours. Dragana took Nadja to the doctor to determine what caused the hair loss. Doctors ran tests, labs, and stopped vaccines in case Nadja had an autoimmune disease.
Everything came back normal, but doctors believed there was a cause for Nadja’s issues. Then at age two, Nadja started having terrible leg cramps. Testing completed by doctors determined Nadja’s calcium levels were extremely low.
Nadja received multiple diagnoses of para hypothyroidism, autoimmune hepatitis, and Von Willebrand’s disease. A genetics test connected the dots when results revealed a mutation on her AIRE gene. Doctors diagnosed Nadja with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1.
As a result of the disorder, Nadja’s immune system attacked her organs. Because her immune system didn’t work correctly, Nadja could not have any live vaccines. Nadja could not produce the antibodies necessary for the vaccine to work. For Nadja to remain safe from preventable diseases, she relied on herd immunity from vaccines and her family did their best to keep her away from infected children.
Nadja’s disorder required routine hospital admissions to manage her calcium levels. In early January 2018, doctors admitted Nadja for a scheduled IV of calcium. Staff placed Nadja in isolation to protect her.
Unfortunately, the hospital was full, and a 9-month-old with measles was placed in a shared room with Nadja. The baby was too young to receive the MMR which provides protection against the measles. Due to a measles outbreak in Serbia, the infant became infected.
Dragana knew that Nadja would contract the illness based on how close the baby was to Nadja. However, the hospital insisted there was no other room for the baby in the hospital.
To keep Nadja safe, doctors transferred her to a different children’s hospital. By the time Nadja arrived at the hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, Dragana’s fears had become a reality.
On January 12, Nadja spiked a 105.8 fever. Blood oozed from her mouth and nose, and doctors determined Nadja had internal bleeding. Nadja’s lungs filled with fluid and her abdomen became swollen and bloated. In only a few days, Nadja gained 13 pounds from fluid retention.
Doctors diagnosed Nadja was measles and did their best to stabilize her. By January 22, Nadja doctors transferred her to the intensive care unit and worked to save her life. Respiratory doctors put Nadja on high volumes of oxygen, but her lungs couldn’t keep up.
Later that evening Nadja stopped breathing, and doctors intubated the toddler on a ventilator. January 22nd was the last time Nadja was ever awake. Nadja remained in a coma for months. Doctors treated her for swelling in the brain, respiratory failure, and gave her immune suppressants.Nadja dropped to only 17 lbs. On April 3rd, her heart stopped working. Doctors performed CPR and revived Nadja. However, the following day on April 4th, Nadja heart stopped again. Unfortunately, doctors failed to revive Nadja. The precious girl, one month shy from 3 years old, died in her mother’s arms.
Dragana was crushed losing her daughter to measles. She knew the hospital that placed the infected baby next to Nadja’s room was responsible for her death. However, the real blame landed with parents in Serbia that refused vaccines.
All over Europe has been ravaged by the measles. In the first half of 2018, Serbia registered more than 1,000 cases of the measles. Active anti-vaccination groups on social media contributed to low vaccine rates in the country.
The measles outbreak started in October 2017 in Serbia. According to Euroactiv, by August 2018 more than 5,800 cases of measles had been confirmed. Fifteen of those patients died, and Nadja was one of those patients.
Almost nine months after Nadja’s death, Dragana says that she misses everything about her daughter.
“I miss everything. Her voice,her contagious smile,her skin,her smell,everything…it’s so hard.”
With the holidays in full swing, Dragana said her family refuses to celebrate anything without Nadja. Dragana said that without Nadja she has nothing to be happy about this year. Instead, Dragana said she prays for the day that God takes her so she can see Nadja again.
Despite her agony and grief, Dragana uses her voice to advocate for vaccines. Through Nadja’s facebook page, Dragana shares updates, stories, and promotes vaccination to her followers. Dragana wishes that Nadja could have been vaccinated for the measles.
“I want them to know that that one vaccine could have saved her. But Nadja couldn’t have the vaccine. She relied on herd immunity to keep her safe.”
Because vaccination rates in Serbia fell in multiple parts of the country, outbreaks of measles spread fast. As more children and adults became infected, children and adults with autoimmune disorders, like Nadja, risked developing the measles.
Nadja was in a hospital in January to get routine treatment. However, an anti-vaccine machine created a mass outbreak where she lived. Instead of going home, Nadja died three months later from measles.
No mother should bury a child. However, Nadja’s death is more atrocious knowing that she could have survived had more parents vaccinated their children.
Please educate yourself on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
Don’t let any more children die.