Cause of death – Pertussis (whooping cough)
Vaccination status – Unvaccinated due to young age
What happened – When Gavin was born his parents felt “absolute joy — just elation.” Unfortunately that was not meant to last. Gavin was taken away from them by the dreaded killer, whooping cough.
When Gavin was 2 months old, the Nortons planned a vacation to celebrate Christmas with family in Utah. To be safe, Gavin’s mom, Natalie, took him to his doctor for a general check up. Gavin was given the green light for the trip.
About a week into their Utah trip, Gavin developed a cough. Concerned, the Nortons took Gavin to a doctor who told them it was respiratory syncytial virus — a virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. The pediatrician said the baby would be sick for about a week, recover for another week and then get well, but the parents were told to watch out for rapid breathing, increased heart rate and a decrease in appetite.
“It was horrifying and very scary,” Richie Norton described. “But at the same time, we just had all the faith in the world that he was going to be fine … but that’s not the way it happened.”
At 8 weeks of age, little Gavin was diagnosed with whooping cough. At 10 weeks his littel body gave up the fight. Gavin was born on Oct. 24, 2009, and passed away Jan. 7, 2010.
“We snuggled him and we sang to him,” Natalie added, “and we said goodbye.”
“Being a mom, standing and watching, and there’s nothing you can do. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Natalie Norton said. “And if all it takes is a little shot to protect us, it’s absolutely worth it.”
According to Sounds of Pertussis, up to 80% of infected children get the disease from a parent of a caregiver, who may not have been vaccinated, or who failed to receive the Tdap booster shot that all adults need to take every 10 years.
“My children were vaccinated for the flu and I always vaccinated my children, but my obstetrician, my son’s pediatrician and my primary care physician never told me about the Tdap vaccine booster,” Norton said.
“I have heard from other parents who tell me that they have asked their doctor for the Tdap vaccine and the doctors say the risk isn’t high enough — the risk is high enough if one child dies from this vicious disease and that has already been my child — parents need to have the courage to ask their doctor for the adult Tdap booster and not to take no for answer — no more children need to die.”
This is a video of Gavin’s mom, which can be found at the Sounds of Pertussis website.
Our hearts go out to the Norton family; we are very sorry for your tragic loss.