Jackson Oblisk, 2, was in a coma after getting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick

By Julie Mazziotta
June 04, 2019 02:30 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Kayla Oblisk

The Oblisk family got the best possible gift on their son’s 2nd birthday: Their toddler woke up after spending four days in a coma.

Jackson Oblisk had contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever — a rare and sometimes deadly disease — from a tick bite two weeks earlier. He’s now expected to be okay, but only after several weeks of pain and misdiagnoses.

On May 16, Jackson’s father and grandfather took him to play at a park near their Hillview, Kentucky home. When they got back, they noticed a tick on Jackson’s neck and quickly removed it and threw it away.

“They just pulled it off and moved right on,” his mom, Kayla, 24, told WHAS 11. “We didn’t think anything else of it at that point.”

But within three days, Jackson was covered in light pink spots and running a fever. Kayla took him to the pediatrician, who said it was a viral rash, then sent him home. But Jackson continued to suffer, and would cry all day long in between periods of exhaustion.

“My kid wouldn’t get up, he wouldn’t eat he wouldn’t drink, he was running a 105 degree fever,” Kayla said. “We couldn’t get him to do anything, if you touched him he screamed.”

Another trip to the doctor and a round of steroids had no effect, so the Oblisks took him to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville on May 27. There, doctors diagnosed him with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a bacterial infection so rare that only 1 in 20,000 tick bites carry it. They immediately started Jackson on doxycycline to treat the disease, hoping they had diagnosed him in time.

“I learned that you usually see death on day 8, that’s when organs start to fail. And when we got him to the hospital it was day 7,” Kayla said.

Over the next four days Jackson went in and out of a coma, and did not eat, drink or talk, Kayla told the Washington Post. He couldn’t even open his eyes because his face was so swollen.

“As a parent, that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.

On Thursday, Jackson woke up for the first time, and on Friday, May 31 — his birthday — he was alert enough to make eye contact with his parents.

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Three days later, on Monday, June 3, Jackson was still not walking or talking, the Washington Post reported, but he was awake and is expected to be okay after more time in the hospital and at a rehabilitation center. Still, doctors don’t know if he will make a full recovery.

A friend of the family started a GoFundMe page and a Facebook fundraiser to help with medical costs, and they said that Jackson’s treatment had already exceeded the out of pocket maximum of $12,500 after four days in the hospital. The family also used the GoFundMe to urge other parents to be wary of ticks.

“Anytime you are in the woods you should be using bug spray,” Kayla urged. “Ticks come from EVERYWHERE. Just because you weren’t in the woods doesn’t mean you can’t get them.”

Kayla added that if the tick is removed without its head then people need to immediately go to the doctor. She also recommended saving the tick so doctors can do additional testing.

“As a parent, you know your child more than anybody else. You know when something is wrong,” she told the Washington Post. “I wish I had followed my gut earlier. He wouldn’t have gone through so much.”