Unvaccinated Little Girl Nearly Dies from Tetanus After Fall Outside

Unvaccinated Little Girl Nearly Dies from Tetanus After Fall Outside July 13, 2019
Natasha Gourlay’s daughter in the hospital. Photo credit Hawaii News Now.

A young girl in Hawaii contracted tetanus and nearly died after falling off a set of bleachers last month. The little girl wasn’t vaccinated at the time. However, her mother, Natasha Gourlay, is now urging parents to vaccinate their children to prevent the illness that nearly killed her daughter.

According to a report on Hawaii News Now, Natasha Gourlay took her daughter to Francis Wong Stadium to watch a baseball game.

During the game, Natasha’s daughter, whose name is withheld to protect her identity, tripped on an old set of bleachers. The little girl’s mouth cut open and her front teeth shifted.

Natasha Gourlay rushed her daughter to a dentist to check out her teeth. According to the mother, the dentist found no evidence of infection. In the days following the fall, the little girl showed no indications of illness.

However, Gourlay said that everything changed three weeks after the fall.

“There was no infection, no signs of redness or swelling,” said Gourlay. “Probably about three weeks after the initial fall, we were noticing while we were eating she wasn’t able to open her mouth all the way.”

Only 48 hours later after her daughter showed symptoms, the girl suffered lockjaw and muscle spasms. Gourlay rushed her daughter to the hospital. Doctors had the girl airlifted to Oahu and placed the toddler in the Intensive Care Unit.

During her hospital stay, doctors diagnosed her with tetanus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tetanus is a disease caused by a bacteria Clostridium tetani. The bacteria live in the soil and enter the body through open wounds.

Tetanus causes muscle spasms, lockjaw, and in severe cases, can lead to death. Contracting tetanus is extremely rare because the tetanus vaccine can prevent the illness from starting.

After diagnosing her with tetanus, doctors treated her illness. The toddler spent two weeks in the hospital and could barely open her mouth. A doctor that treated her, Dr. Jessica Koust, said the girl talked through clenched teeth for weeks.

After two weeks, doctors removed a feeding tube and discharged the girl home. Despite the girl’s brush with death, she is back to her usual self.

Natasha Gourlay said that misinformation related to vaccines made her scared to immunize her daughter. She blamed her inexperience and age in making the unfortunate decision not to vaccinate her daughter.

“I was told an extreme. Then I was told the other side,” she said. “As a young mother, I didn’t know what to do. I was scared.”

However, today Gourlay said she would make a different choice had she understood the severity of the diseases the vaccines prevent.

“Going through what we went through, I would have done things differently because it was preventable,” said Gourlay.

Now Gourlay’s daughter will receive all of her vaccinations. Additionally, the mother hopes that by sharing her story she can help other parents change their minds about vaccines.

According to the CDC, tetanus is extremely rare in the United States. Since the introduction of the tetanus vaccine in the 1930s, cases of the bacteria have fallen by 99%. For decades, the CDC has reported fewer than 100 cases of tetanus a year.

Despite misinformation spread about vaccines, immunizations do not cause autism. Additionally, vaccines rarely cause serious injuries or death. Instead, vaccines have proven to effectively prevent serious illnesses from spreading and killing millions of people.

The CDC recommends all people get a tetanus vaccine every ten years.

Thankfully for Natasha Gourlay, her daughter survived tetanus. However, the entire disease could have been prevented had she vaccinated her daughter.

Please make sure your children are up to date on all of their vaccinations to prevent illnesses like tetanus, measles, and whooping cough.

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Robert Baden

    Not just your children. Yourself. Everyone is vulnerable to tetanus. It is not a communicable disease, but a wound infection.
    Also be up to date for the other vaccines, for you can spread them to if you become infected.

  • Mel

    I taught high school before my son was born and I made sure my students understood that tetanus is transmitted through the environment. IOW, the last man (or woman) on the planet could still die of tetanus.

  • Crazy Aussie Pagan

    That poor little child. To die so painfully from something that was easily preventable.

  • Oof. Poor kiddo!

  • RainbowPhoenix

    It’s all fun and games until you see these diseases for yourself.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Didn’t die, happy to say, thanks to *secular* medicine.

  • Friend

    Mel, do you think this child would have avoided the disease if she had been vaccinated within 48 hours after the wound? That’s what the Mayo Clinic site says.

    Parents used to take kids for a tetanus booster if they cut themselves on something d1rty, especially metal. Is this knowledge lost?

    ETA: I wonder if the dentist recommended the vaccine. He saw the child right after the accident.

  • persephone

    When I was about 13, I jumped off out deck one night and ended up partially impaling my foot on a three-pronged garden tool. I still have a weird scar. My parents called our family doctor and he had us come right over (he lived above his office) and vaccinated me. The vaccine wears off, and you have to get vaccinated again within a certain number of years.

  • persephone

    The anti vax xers belittle the diseases as a little fever, some spots, and then everything is just fine. They’re garbage people.

  • persephone

    At least she’s getting her doctor vaccinated. The little boy who got tetanus in Oregon is not going to be vaccinated. At some point, you have to say that the child is endangered by the parents.

  • Matt G

    Vaccines have become a victim of their own success. How many people alive today have ever seen smallpox? Or polio?

  • Mel

    I’d imagine the dentist would have recommended it if they knew the kid was unvaccinated – but with the exception of a few geographical areas – anti-vaxxers are still a tiny minority of the population and that girl is young enough that the dentist probably assumed that she was still covered by the TDaP vaccines given in infancy (2m, 4m, 6m) but was too young to need the one given in early childhood (4-6yr).

    Since the TD or TDaP gives ~8 years of active protection and 2 years of lesser protection that needs a booster after the 4-6yr dose, the age range that most people need to be reminded about is in the late teens through adulthood.

    Or the dentist recommended it and the family didn’t follow up. Unlike a primary care doctor, the dentist wouldn’t have a TD or TDaP vaccine on hand.

    Boosters are great if a person knows they have been hurt especially on a deep wound, a puncture wound or an injury that happened outdoors – but over 50% of tetanus cases are not associated with an known, noticeable injury. Turns out very superficial breaches of the skin – far too small to cause pain or bleeding – can introduce tetanus bacteria and are a low enough oxygen area that tetanus can grow unchecked.

  • Dana W

    The way they are destroying public health I’m glad I had my smallpox vaccine. “Yes I’m old” I keep waiting for it to turn up again.

  • 24CaratHooligan

    Here in the UK under our beloved NHS (which we will go to the barricades to save from the Orange Peril) if you go into the ER with any kind of scratch, stab injury, bite etc. they always ask if your tetanus is up to date. In the space of 2 months I was bitten by my own cat, a mouse and a rat. After the initial cat bite I was given a tet booster, by the time it came to the rat the ER doctor was practically hysterical as i explained how I knew exactly when my last tet booster was…

  • Sophotroph

    Hey! You take that back!

    Garbage deserves better.

  • Katherine A.

    It’s for that reason I wish there was a disease simulator. That it would make people feel what terrible diseases are really like but without them dying from it. Every symptom, every pain, all the suffering, and even a bit of permanent consequences- all before the simulation is over. That would be an amazing education tool.

  • phatkhat

    There are a fair number of us who grew up during the polio epidemics. Terrifying times.

  • Matt G

    I met a woman who had polio. It was in the 70s and she probably was in her 70s too.

  • Dana W

    In the 70’s, most of us knew one or two people with polio.

  • Jeroen Metselaar

    I also wonder, did anybody ask that dentist what signs of tetanus infection he would expect to see directly after the injury?

    Because there would be no visual sign of tetanus. Saying he saw no signs of infections means nothing. The indications of a tetanus jab were clearly met so why didn’t he refer her to a doctor to get one?