It took 2 months and almost $1 million to save an unvaxxed 6 year old from tetanus

For one six year old boy, not being vaccinated against tetanus resulted in 2 months of intense treatments and nearly a million dollars in hospital costs in order to save his life.

In a case report released by the Centers for Disease Control today, the CDC shares the story of a young boy who spent 57 days in the hospital – 47 of which were in intensive care – and racked up $811,929 in costs (excluding air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation, and ambulatory follow-up costs).

And all this effort could have been avoided had he simply received a vaccine. A vaccine that has been safe and effective for almost 100 years. A vaccine he should have received at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 months, and 4 years old, (5 doses in total) according to the CDC’s guidelines. And even as an adult, you might need a booster (but I’m not a doctor – call yours and see if you’re due for one if you’re not sure). I got my last DTaP booster when my youngest child was born seven years ago. I did it because a doctor told me I needed to. And I listened to her because she is a goddamn doctor and knows more about the subject than I do (and it was free, too).

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The bacteria that causes tetanus is called Clostridium tetani, and it absolutely *loves* living in soil. The bacteria can enter your body through a small cut – the type of cuts many kids get when they play outside – and that’s when the trouble begins. The bacteria releases an extremely dangerous toxin that will paralyze muscles in your body and cause them to spasm. The first muscle group to be affected is your jaw. And it goes on from there. You can even fracture your own bones as a result of it.

What happened?

According to the case report, the boy suffered a cut on his forehead while playing outside sometime in 2017. He was patched up at home, but six days later he had “episodes of crying, jaw clenching, and involuntary upper extremity muscle spasms, followed by arching of the neck and back (opisthotonus) and generalized spasticity.” It wasn’t until he began having problems breathing that his parents finally called 911. 

The child was airlifted to a pediatric center. When he got to the hospital, he had jaw muscle spasms (trismus). He wanted a drink of water, but was unable to open his mouth. He had to be sedated, intubated, and placed on a ventilator. Medical staff assumed he had tetanus, and for the first time ever (for any vaccine), administered the DTaP vaccine. They had to put him in a darkened room with earplugs because stimulation increased the intensity of his spasms. 

If this doesn’t sound intense enough, back when I worked for the Department of Child Services, we would have considered this to be a “near fatality.”

His opisthotonus (spasms on the back of the neck that cause the head to arch backwards) worsened. He developed autonomic instability (hypertension, tachycardia, and body temperatures of 97.0°F–104.9°F [36.1°C–40.5°C]). He received IV infusions. He had a tracheostomy (a hole in his neck to access his windpipe to place a long-term ventilator. He was on a vent for 44 days. 

The tracheostomy was removed on day 54, and he was discharged to a rehabilitation center on day 57, where he stayed for an additional 17 days.

According to Gizmodo, a month after the ordeal, the boy was fine. But his parents still didn’t learn their lesson.

A month later, he was completely back to normal, running and using his bike again. But it seems no lessons were learned on his family’s part. Despite the brutal ordeal and pleading by the doctors, they again chose not to vaccinate him for tetanus or any other diseases.

He is still not vaccinated.


How dare they. How fucking dare these parents watch their child go through this completely terrible ordeal that NO child should ever go through. An ordeal where they relied heavily on countless medical professionals and modern technology to LITERALLY SAVE THEIR CHILD’S LIFE… Then turn around and say “FUCK YOU” to every single doctor, nurse, and paramedic that worked for well over two months to save his life. Because that’s exactly what these shitty parents did.

NO child should have to go through something like this. This is ENTIRELY the fault of the parents, through and through. The vaccine for tetanus was invented in 1924. THE GODDAMN VACCINE HAS EXISTED FOR ALMOST 100 YEARS. This isn’t a question of “does it work?” or “is it safe?”. It works. It’s safe. It’s saved countless lives. It’s prevented unspeakable trauma like this from happening to millions of children.

I sincerely hope this kid doesn’t remember even half of what happened to him. At age six, he’s experienced more trauma than most of us will in our entire lives. If you don’t believe me, and you think I’m using hyperbole, just ask a doctor what it’s like to be in the intensive care unit. Then ask them why so many doctors have “do not resuscitate” orders for themselves. It’s because they know what it’s like, and they don’t ever want to put themselves through it.

The only memory I hope this kid takes with him is the memory of his parents completely disregarding his livelihood and health. Because with any luck, this kid *might* make it to 18, and if he does, I hope like hell he testifies before Congress about his experience just like Ethan Lindenberger did.

Written by Dan Broadbent

Science Enthusiast. Atheist. Lover of cats.




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