Kenley Ratliff began feeling sick eight days before her death, experiencing a 103.8-degree fever. Her mom, Kayla Conn, brought her to the local emergency room where doctors diagnosed a virus or bacterial infection, telling Conn to keep her daughter hydrated. The next day, the girl's fever rose to 104, and Conn returned her to the ER, where doctors gave her the same treatment.
Three days after that, the family took the 2-year-old to University of Indiana’s Riley Children’s Hospital, where she began showing a rash on her arms and legs, a sign of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She also developed other symptoms of the disease including brain swelling and organ failure.
Doctors began treating Ratliff with the antibiotic for the disease, but at that
Ratliff often spent time outdoors, and her symptoms began to show about a week or two after going camping.
Dr. Andrew Nowalk, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, noted that delayed diagnosis is one of the challenges of the disease, as early symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses. Symptoms can include fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain and conjunctival injection (red eyes).
Ratliff's family is still awaiting confirmation that the little girl died from the tick-borne disease, but they hope her death will help raise awareness for other parents.
“If we could save one child’s life then we will have done our job," said Jordan Clapp, Kenley’s aunt. "Kayla is so devastated. Spreading awareness is therapeutic.”
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