Kenley Ratcliff was just two-years-old when she lost her life to a mysterious illness. Although still not 100 percent sure, doctors now suspect Kenley died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is a disease spread by ticks. The little Indianapolis girl died last Sunday and, until autopsy results are known, no-one is really sure what happened.
According to CNN, little Kenley’s aunt, Jordan Clapp, described how things went from bad to worse very quickly for the little girl.
“She started with a fever of 100.8. That was at the first hospital. We were advised to keep her hydrated and rested. Her fever went up to 104, so we went to a second hospital. They gave her more antibiotics.”
Initially, Kenley tested positive for strep throat, so she was given antibiotics, but when her fever hadn’t dropped by day four or five, Kenley became very unresponsive. She was so weak her mother Kayla Conn had to hold her head up, and light pink rashes started popping up all over her body.
Another antibiotic was administered, and the pink rashes started to turn a dark purple-red color: it was at this point that doctors at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis began to suspect that Kenley may have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
According to the hospital, Kenley’s symptoms began after a camping trip the family had undertaken, and before being seen at Riley she had been seen twice by other health care providers.
Dr. Chandy John is the pediatric infectious disease specialist who treated Kenley, and he described how he immediately treated Kenley Ratcliff with doxycycline, but was concerned that the antibiotic would have little effect.
“The longer you wait, the less likely patients are to respond to treatment, so it was tough to know if treatment would have made any difference in this case because she had come in in a pretty advanced state of the disease.”
What is Rocky Mountain spotted fever? It’s a disease spread by ticks carrying the bacterium Rickettsia Rickettsii. When the ticks bite humans, the bacterium enters into the bloodstream, causing symptoms within two to 14 days such as headaches, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain, and rashes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever occur in the United States each year. Unfortunately, if not treated within the first few days, the disease can be fatal. The CDC stated that more than 20 percent of untreated cases end in death.
The antibiotic doxycycline is the most effective treatment, provided it’s given within five days of symptoms first appearing.
The ticks are more populous in the summer season, but warmer winters allow ticks to live longer and survive well into the summer, making numbers even higher.
Geoffrey Wall is a tick-borne disease expert and clinical sciences professor at Drake University. He advises anyone who has been outside to check their hair and scalp for ticks.
An infectious disease specialist and chairperson of paediatrics at Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, New York, Dr. Sunil Sood advises everyone to check their body while showering, because it’s the best way to spot ticks before they have the chance to burrow into the skin.
“If, at the end of the day you bathe or shower with a washcloth, you pretty much dislodge any tick that is not yet attached.”
Another method of dislodging ticks recommended by Dr. Sood is to put all clothes into a dryer.
Meanwhile, Kenley Ratcliff’s family are mourning the loss of their little girl, and part of their healing is to focus on education and awareness.
Kenley’s aunt discribed her as a “sweetheart” who brought a smile everywhere she went.
“Now that Kenley has passed away, obviously, we can’t do anything. But we can save other children’s lives, and we can educate other parents on checking for ticks, and we can raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, because we had no idea. So, if they have read Kenley’s story, this will now be on the back of their minds. And they’ll know, and they’ll understand.”
Fox 5 reported that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a tick-borne disease that causes a bacterial infection. Little Kenley was admitted to hospital after they couldn’t reduce her 104° fever.
Her symptoms included swollen hands, a brain infection, and rashes all over her body. A family friend, Nicole Kirby, said that Kenley had purple splotches all over her body.
“Just the condition of this poor baby laying there the way she was, it’s a mother’s nightmare, a father’s nightmare. Her mother and father cannot believe that she is gone, that their baby girl is gone now.”
Kenley Ratcliff’s aunt explained that, following her week-long fever, the two-year-old was already “brain-dead before they could give her the antibiotic” specifically to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
More than $4,000 has already been raised to help with Kenley’s funeral expenses.
Wave 3 News reported that Kenley Ratcliffe’s family want to get the message out there, to ensure that other families always check their children for ticks.
Kenley’s aunt says that the little girl’s mother would be “devastated” if this happened to anyone else.
“I think she would just want everyone to know how much she loved her baby girl. That was her angel.”
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