They say that for parents, it is infinitely harder to see your child suffer from a serious illness than it is to fall sick yourself. This was certainly true of young mum Iris Ng, who posted at length on Facebook about her 4-year-old son’s battle with Sepsis, one that kept him in hospital for six months and may have changed his life forever.
Ms Ng posted her son Jarrod’s story on September 13, which is World Sepsis Day, to raise awareness of a condition unfamiliar to most. The young mother is encouraging people to share her post.
“Today is World Sepsis Day and in recognition of that, we are sharing our story of Jarrod’s 6-month long hospital journey with Sepsis. With this, we hope that parents become aware of the symptoms and also press to escalate if they feel like they have been dismissed or their concerns have not been addressed. Please feel free to share as awareness can save a life.”
Ms Ng wrote that their story began on March 28th of this year, when Jarrod’s kindergarten teacher called to say that her son had a mild fever and looked lethargic. When they picked him up, he no longer had a fever and was playing.
However, his fever recurred two days later, accompanied by a rash on his face. By the following Monday, he had developed pain in his right leg, and on the day after that, he could not bear any weight on it. His parents took him to the emergency room on Tuesday, April 2, as the child was in great pain.
Despite medications, Jarrod got worse, as he developed diarrhea and started vomiting. His father stayed with him in hospital, as his mum was 33 weeks pregnant at that time.
By that evening, doctors knew that Jarrod had sepsis but did not know what had caused it.
Ms Ng wrote, “Sepsis occurs when your body’s immune system starts to send infection-fighting chemicals throughout your body rather than just to the infection itself. These chemicals cause inflammation and start to attack healthy tissues and organs. Your body is no longer fighting the infection, it’s fighting itself.”
The young boy’s organs began to fail that night. By the following morning, he needed surgery to save his life and was put on a machine when his heart stopped following the surgery, which saved his life.
At 7 am on April 3 little Jarrod had become more ill, in spite of being on 30 different kinds of medicines, and doctors told the family to get ready. “We were told that if we needed to contact family that now would be the time to do so. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Why was this happening to my little boy? He was a good little boy and a full life ahead of him. Why did it have to happen to him?” the anguished mother wrote.
Jarrod survived the next few days since he had been hooked up to an ECMO machine. His mother felt fortunate that the hospital where he was confined was one of the very few in the world that uses an ECMO machine for the treatment of sepsis.
According to ucsfhealth.org, “Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.”
Doctors found after four days that Jarrod tested positive for “Group A Strep (Same bacteria that causes a strep throat),” and aside from his sore leg, could not find anything out of the ordinary with the child.
But Jarrod’s leg kept on swelling, at one point growing to three times its size, which led doctors to believe it was the source of the infection. The Ng family had to take a risky decision to allow further surgery on Jarrod, who was critically ill at this point, and in fact, needed to be operated on in his ICU room as he was too sick to move to an operating theatre. Fortunately, the surgery went well. His mum wrote, “It seemed that the leg was a secondary cause, the Group A Strep bacteria had made it’s way into the bloodstream and bones and cut-off blood supply to the leg resulting in muscle and tissue damage.”
Even after the successful surgery, Jarrod was not out of the woods, as he required “numerous surgeries” due to the gravity of the wound—“close to 20 operations” in all, requiring the removal of dead muscle and tissue in his leg.
As part of his recovery, he also needed to learn to walk again. His mum wrote, “He was so weak in the beginning he couldn’t even hold his neck up in bed and was floppy on the wheelchair. As a parent, it really hurt to see how much pain he was in and you could do nothing about it except tell him to ‘never give up’.”
The story has a happy ending, as Jarrod is now “almost 100% back to normal,” and also has a new baby sister.
Ms Ng’s takeaway and her message to other parents is this: “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.”/ TISG