by Cheri Rae
The last big outbreak of whooping cough, five years ago, hit hard around here.
The nightmarish coughing spasms—so severe they left my then-eight-year-old son gasping for air around the clock, and both of us sleepless at night—were a grim reality for a couple of months, but the damage lingered far beyond.
Shocked by the severity of the vaccine-preventable illness, I learned everything I could and shared that new-found expertise in a memorable cover story for the Santa Barbara Independent, titled “Hundred-Day Hack.” I even ended up on the Today Show, talking about whooping cough. I never expected to address it again.
But the recent epidemic—more than 4,000 cases in California, the most in a half-century, and 45 cases in Santa Barbara County—is so bad that the Santa Barbara school district dialed up robo-calls to inform parents about it. Here’s the follow-up, the cautionary tale about life after the coughing stops. It’s bad enough to contract the disease—coming back from it can be just as difficult.