A family is devastated after their five-year-old child died from what doctors mistakenly thought was a cold.
Cathy Kassis from Australia was actually sick with Strep A, a bacteria that can cause serious respiratory and skin infections.
But by the time they discovered the true cause of her symptoms, their hard-fought battle was already over.
In the days before her death, Cathy’s parents took their little girl to the hospital after she lost her voice and had trouble breathing.
Cathy’s stepfather Justin Sutton said: “It was almost like an asthma attack or what it’s like to watch someone with emphysema breathing.”
But doctors sent the little one home, telling her parents it was a “viral infection” and to “keep doing what we’re doing and let it run its course.”
Days later, her mother called emergency services in a panic after her daughter’s lips turned blue and she kept losing consciousness.
Justin began CPR on the little one while they waited for an ambulance.
Cathy was then flown in a medical helicopter to a children’s hospital, but after just over an hour of resuscitation efforts, doctors declared her brain dead.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death was Strep A.
“It could have been treated with a normal course of antibiotics,” Justin told 7News.
Since her death, Cathy has donated three of her organs.
Her stepfather added: “It was the worst moment of our lives… at least she was able to save three other families, which is a beautiful thing.”
Her parents want people to be aware of Strep A and for them to “trust their instincts” when something doesn’t feel right.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Cathy’s family.
In most cases, Strep A bacteria cause mild illness, but can sometimes cause invasive Group Strep A disease.
This happens when bacteria enter the bloodstream or other areas where they shouldn’t go.
This can then lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.
What are the symptoms?
According to the NHS, there are four main signs of invasive group A streptococcus to look out for.
- Fever (i.e. a high temperature above 38°C)
- Severe muscle pain
- Localized muscle tenderness
- Redness at the wound site
The invasive variant of the disease occurs when the bacteria break through the body’s immune defenses.
This can happen if you are already feeling unwell or your immune system is weakened.
Two of the most serious examples of invasive disease are necrotizing fasciitis – a very rare but life-threatening infection also called “flesh-eating disease” – and toxic shock syndrome.
Who is at risk?
Some people are at higher risk of developing the invasive form.
The NHS says these people include anyone who:
- is in close contact with someone who already has it
- is over 65 years old
- is diabetic
- has heart disease or cancer
- recently had chickenpox
- has HIV
- uses some steroids or intravenous medications
The time of year can also be a factor. Outbreaks can occur frequently in late winter and early spring, but the risk remains year-round.