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4-year-old boy underwent almost 20 surgeries, put on life support after contracting bacterial infection

The ordeal lasted for six months.

Eileen Lee | September 19, 11:03 am

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On Sept. 13, 2019, a woman in Australia, Iris Ng, shared her family’s harrowing experience with sepsis — a potentially fatal condition that occurs when your immune system goes into overdrive fighting off an infection and starts to attack the healthy organs.

Severe sepsis can lead to organ failure.

Ng’s four-year-old son, Jarrod, deteriorated within days after contracting a bacterial infection which led to sepsis.

The child spent six months overcoming the ordeal, and was left with permanent scars from the ordeal.

The post was published on World Sepsis Day (Sep. 13) in a bid to raise awareness of sepsis, and to remind parents to keep a lookout for its symptoms.

What happened

    • March 28, 2019: Ng first received a call from Jarrod’s kindergarten that he “looked lethargic” and had a “mild temp”. However, his fever was gone when Ng went to pick him up, and Jarrod was seen playing with the other children.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
    • March 29: Jarrod had no fever, but his parents made the decision to let him stay at home.
    • March 30: Jarrod developed fever, with the highest temperature at around 39°C. There was also rash on his face, which “went white” when his parents pressed on it.
    • The parents called for a home doctor who claimed that it was a viral fever, and instructed the parents to give Jarrod Panadol and Neurofen.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
  • March 31: Jarrod’s rash and fever appeared to calm down.
  • April 1: Jarrod had another round of rash and complained that his leg hurt. Ng brought in another doctor, who also claimed that it was a viral fever.
  • According to the doctor, the pain in Jarrod’s leg was probably due to “inflammation caused by the viral fever”. The parents were instructed to continue with the Panadol and Neurofen.

Straight to emergency room

    • April 2: Jarrod still had fever and rash in the morning. Later in the afternoon, Jarrod’s condition worsened.
    • The child was in so much discomfort and pain that he informed his father to send him to the hospital, so that they could “take away the pain”, and “fix his leg”. The parents sent Jarrod to the emergency room at 5pm.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
    • 5:30pm: Due to his rash, Jarrod was moved to an isolation room. The triage nurse triaged him as a “priority 4”, which placed them as a lower priority on the patient’s list. They were given Panadol and antihistamines, and waited for another five hours. Jarrod began to have diarrhoea during the waiting period.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
    • ‪10:30pm‬: The father called for the medical staff when Jarrod started vomiting and had more diarrhoea. The nurse arrived 45 minutes later to take his blood pressure and checked his vitals. The room was suddenly filled with doctors, nurses and medical staff. They knew that Jarrod had sepsis, but did not know what caused it.
    • 11:30pm: Jarrod had to get a dialysis filter through his neck because his organs had started to shut down and his kidney was failing.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Doctors struggled to determine cause of infection

    • April 3, 4am: Jarrod’s heart began to fail and he had to undergo an open-heart surgery. This was to allow his heart to continue functioning with an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.
    • Although Jarrod was critically ill, the doctors struggled to determine the cause of his infection.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
  • 7am: Jarrod was on 30 different medications, including broad spectrum antibiotics. The doctors suspected the cause to be either Kawasaki Disease or Group A Strep. The parents were told to contact the rest of the family as the hospital exhausted the limits of life support.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Flesh-eating bacteria

    • April 7: Four days later, Jarrod finally tested positive for Group A Streptococcus bacteria, a bacteria that can be found on the surface of the human skin and in the throat.
    • Jarrod was given antibiotics, and the ECMO machine was also helping to filter the toxins from his blood.
    • However, even with the medication and ECMO machine, Jarrod started to develop blisters and blue-purple patches on his skin, caused by a septic shock.
    • At one point, his right leg swelled to the extent that it was three times its usual size.
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
  • The doctors decided to perform a surgery on Jarrod’s swollen leg, as they thought it might be the source of the infection.

Warning: Graphic photo ahead.

Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

But there was a risk that Jarrod might not survive the surgery, as he was critically ill and on blood thinners.

However, they eventually went ahead with it, and Jarrod was so weak that he couldn’t be moved, and the doctors had to convert the ICU into a mini theatre.

Thankfully, two hours later, the family received news that the surgery went well.

The cause was also determined:

“It seemed that the leg was a secondary cause, the Group A Strep bacteria had made it’s way into the blood stream and bones and cut-off blood supply to the leg resulting in muscle and tissue damage.”

Spent 24 days in ICU

Jarrod spent a total of 24 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

He was in an induced coma and on life support for eight of those days.

His hair had also started to fall, and skin started to peel.

Image from Iris Ng/Facebook
Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Underwent numerous surgeries

  • The doctors had to perform numerous surgeries on Jarrod’s leg as the wound kept opening up.

    Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Road to recovery

Jarrod spent three months in the hospital, and another three months at home under the care of the hospital.

He had undergone close to 20 operations and was no longer afraid of needles or going into the operating theatre.

Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

But the child had to learn to walk all over again.

“He had some dead muscle and tissue removed from his leg and had to learn to walk again. He was so weak in the beginning he couldn’t even hold his neck up in bed and was floppy on the wheelchair”

Although it hurt Ng to see her son in pain, she could not do anything but encourage Jarrod to stay strong.

Almost back to 100 per cent

Fortunately, after undergoing multiple physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions, as well as with the help of medical technology, Jarrod is almost back to normal now.

Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Although one of his legs is smaller than the other due to the removal of dead muscles and tissues, Jarrod’s parents are glad that he still has his legs.

Image from Iris Ng/Facebook

Advice for other parents

After the entire ordeal, Ng ended with a note saying that parents should pay more attention to their child’s symptoms, and to insist on seeking for a second opinion, to confirm if their child had contacted sepsis.

“From our experience, if your child appears sicker than you’ve ever seen then take them to the emergency department and ask if it could be sepsis and insist on a second opinion/escalation. The time that you see symptoms and when it becomes critical is a matter of hours.”

You can read the full post here.

All images from Iris Ng/Facebook

About Eileen Lee

Eileen is a serial green tea drinker.

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