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Whooping Cough Can Kill: One Mother’s Story of Loss

Editor’s Note: NewsHour health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser recently traveled to Washington state to report on the whooping cough epidemic currently gripping many parts of the U.S. While there, she spoke with Chelsey Charles about her experience of losing a child to the disease. Listen to Chelsey’s full story in the video above. Below, Betty Ann reflects on the interview.

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. | I remember the feeling like it was yesterday.

My first child had just been born and placed in my arms in the delivery room. It was the greatest natural high of my lifetime.

His dad and I both felt the wonder of that moment … that two people who loved each other had created this beautiful baby boy.

That was the same feeling 18-year old Chelsey Charles of Lake Stevens, Wash., described to me when the NewsHour’s health unit recently interviewed her for a story about whooping cough.

But her story did not end like mine.

Today, I am the mother of a big, strapping, red-headed son who’s now 34. Her baby girl, Kaliah, lived just 27 days.

Little Kaliah died from whooping cough. She contracted the disease from her mother, who had not been vaccinated against the disease when she was pregnant.

I could not imagine where this young woman found the strength to move forward with her life. But she has.

In fact, she has made public service announcements for the Washington State Department of Health, urging everyone to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

Chelsey’s story is told in an abbreviated form on tonight’s PBS NewsHour broadcast. But we thought perhaps you would like to hear the whole story from her own perspective. You can find it above.

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Video edited by Tim Smith.

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