Aurelia C.


The summer of 2023, my four-year-old daughter, Aurelia, had been dealing with a slight cough for a few days. No other symptoms, no fever. The day everything went wrong, we got up as usual and she seemed fine. I was driving her to an appointment a few hours away when she began vomiting. She felt warm, so I stopped at the nearest pediatric urgent care. They told me she was fine and that it was probably just a virus. They gave her some meds for the vomiting so that I could get her home.

When I got her home, her fever had spiked and she didn’t seem to be doing better, so I took her to another urgent care. Again, I was told that it was just a virus and she was fine. By that point she was already showing signs of sepsis (lethargy, rash on her chest, high fever, etc), but I am not a medical expert and trusted the advice being given to me.

That night I just had a bad feeling, so I slept in the bed with my daughter. I set an alarm for every couple of hours so I could wake up and check her fever. When my alarm went off at about 1:00 AM, she was having trouble breathing and her lips had turned blue. I rushed her to the ER – I was later told that she would have been gone by morning.

Staff at the ER immediately recognized that she was septic and focused on stabilizing her in order to get her to the nearest children’s hospital. (Sepsis and Septic Shock) Upon arriving at the children’s hospital she was in septic shock and had to be intubated; she was in heart and lung failure. All of her organs were inflamed. The left ventricle of her heart had stopped functioning so even intubation was not enough because her heart was not circulating the oxygen she was being given. She had to be put on ECMO, which is a sort of heart-lung bypass that circulates her blood outside her body, oxygenates it for her, then circulates it back into her body. She had to be put into a medicated coma while she was on ECMO. No one would give me any promises as to the chances of her survival.

After a few days on ECMO, her heart healed and the swelling in her organs began to go down. Eventually, she was successfully taken off of ECMO, then eventually off of the ventilator. She had blood clots that had been caused by the ECMO, she still had the infection, and she had several other issues that had to be resolved due to the long intubation. All told, we spent 35 days in the PICU. Eventually, we found out that the cause of all of this had been a simple strep infection. (Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus, Sepsis and Group B Streptococcus)

Aurelia was eventually discharged from the hospital, but she still had a long road to complete recovery. She had two blood clots which required twice daily injections of blood thinners, and she also could only drink thickened liquids because the long intubation had affected her ability to swallow. After a few months, the blood clots resolved and she was taken off the thickened liquids. It is a miracle that she has come out of this with no brain damage and no other issues. Her heart and lungs have completely healed.

Aurelia’s story shows how important it is for medical professionals to recognize the symptoms of sepsis – I often wonder what would have happened if the doctors at the two urgent cares we visited had taken her symptoms more seriously, but also what would have happened if the doctors and nurses at the ER and the children’s hospital had not immediately recognized her symptoms and treated them appropriately. Either way, her story might be very different.

Source: Laci Casado, Mother

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