Two-year-old Plainfield, Indiana, resident Kenley Ratliff loved nothing more than playing outside. But that very love of sunshine and fresh air — along with a very common outdoor risk — ended up costing her life.
One day, little Kenley had started running a fever. Her parents took her to the emergency room twice, where medical professionals suspected she had strep throat.
But to her family’s horror, her symptoms continued to worsen. Her fever spiked, her hands began to swell, and an ugly rash erupted across her skin.
“She had purple rashes, splotches all over her body in an ununiform [sic] pattern, just all over, little tiny purple spots, big purple patches,” family friend Nichol Kirby told WISH. “Just the condition of this poor baby laying there the way she was, it’s a mother’s nightmare, a father’s nightmare.”
That nightmare would only get worse. On May 30, the Ratliffs took Kenley back to the hospital yet again.
This time, the doctors came to a different conclusion: They intubated her, placed her on a ventilator, and began providing her with antibiotics.
Their diagnosis? Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, an illness spread by ticks.
In addition to the distinctive splotches it causes, the sickness can lead to a devastating bacterial infection. Unfortunately for Kenley, that infection attacked her brain.
“Kenley currently has little to no brain activity,” her family wrote as part of a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for her treatment. “Her brain is so swollen, it’s pushing onto her spine.
“She is currently on a breathing machine to stay alive, but she is surrounded by her loving family. We are hoping for a miracle right now for this sweet baby.”
Sadly, that miracle didn’t come for Kenley. Her family made the decision to turn off her ventilator on June 3.
Though few situations are as horrific as the death of a child, the Ratliff family has decided to use her illness as a force for good. They’re making it their goal to spread the word about the insidious dangers of tick-borne diseases.
Many of those illnesses can present as other sorts of sicknesses. Their symptoms, which include rash, fever, headache, and nausea, can mesh with many other maladies.
“Our goal is to spread awareness of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in hopes of saving other children’s lives,” the family wrote. “Please continue to spread awareness!”