Mum's horror as 4-year-old son with leg pain gets diagnosed with sepsis

A mum has shared how her happy and healthy 4-year-old son got infected with a deadly disease called sepsis. The incident highlights the dangers of sepsis in children, and with her post, this mum hopes that more people will become aware of the symptoms of this dangerous disease.

"Awareness can save a life," she says.


In a long and detailed post on Facebook on 13 September 2019, Mummy Iris Ng shares that all was well with her 4-year-old son, Jarrod, until 28 March 2019, when she got a call from his kindergarten.

The boy had been looking lethargic and had mild fever. The parents quickly left work to pick him up, but by then, his fever had gone, and he was back to his playful self.

Even on the next day, Jarrod showed no signs of fever, but to be safe, his parents did not send him to kindergarten.

Things took a turn for the worse on 30th March, when the fever came back. This time there was a rash on the child's face, that went white when pressed.

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"Home doctor checked and he said it was a viral fever and asked us to give him panadol and nurofen," writes Iris.

Again, by the next day, Jarrod looked better, and his fever and rash seemed to be milder.


It was on April 1st that Jarrod complained that his leg hurt. He also had a rash, so mummy Iris took him to another GP.

"He said the same, it is a viral fever so panadol and nurofen. Leg pain could be due to inflammation caused by the viral fever," says Iris.

By the next day, Jarrod was unable to bear weight on his right leg, and he still had fever and the rash.

"By afternoon he was in so much pain and discomfort he told hubs to take him to the hosp so the docs could take away the pain and fix his leg. We took him straight to the ER at 5pm," writes Iris.

At the hospital, the boy was moved to an isolation room immediately, because of the rash.

"We were given Panadol and antihistamines and waited for over 5 hours in isolation even though he started to have diarrhoea. By this stage Hubs had asked me to go home and get rest while he waited with Jarrod as I was 33 weeks pregnant."

By night, at around 10.30pm, things started to deteriorate. Jarrod began vomiting and had more diarrhoea.

By then, the doctors knew Jarrod had sepsis, but didn't know what had caused it.

"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 the healthy tissues and organs. Your body is no longer fighting the infection, it's fighting itself," shares Iris.


According to Iris, soon Jarrod's organs started to shut down, and his kidneys started to fail.

"We were told that Jarrod's heart had started to fail and required surgery to open his chest and bypass his heart function using a ECMO machine. The machine would take over his heart function and allow them to filter toxins from his blood."

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"We were fortunate he was put on just in time as his heart had stopped right after the surgery. Doctors knew he was critically ill but struggled to determine what had caused his condition," she reveals.

The next few days were really tough.

"Jarrod had developed blue/purple patches in his skin along with severe blistering throughout his body which were all consequences of septic shock. His right leg continued to swell and at one point was 3 times the size."

"Doctors were concerned that this was the source of the infection so decided to open it up while he was still on life support," says Iris.

It emerged later on that the leg was a secondary cause, the Group A Strep bacteria (flesh-eating bacteria) had made its way into the bloodstream and bones and cut-off the blood supply to the leg resulting in muscle and tissue damage.

Jarrod spent 24 days in ICU, his skin started to peel off and he lost a lot of hair. Doctors also had to perform numerous surgeries on his leg at that point as the wound kept opening up.


On the whole, Jarrod spent three months in the hospital and three months under the care of the hospital at home. He had to undergo close to 20 operations.

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"He had some dead muscle and tissue removed from his leg and had to learn to walk again," reveals Iris.

But thankfully, with medication, physiotherapy and acupuncture, Jarrod is now almost 100 per cent normal.

"He may have battle scars and one of his legs may always be smaller than the other due to the muscle removed but we are just glad the still has his legs," says mummy Iris.

Iris is still shocked by how quickly things spiralled out of control.

"Jarrod was a happy and healthy 4 year old with no existing medical conditions. His immunisations were all up to date and up until the day before his ED admission he didn't appear any sicker than before."

Iris hopes that with this post, parents become aware of the symptoms of sepsis in children.

"The time that you see symptoms and when it becomes critical is a matter of hours. Awareness can save a life," she says.



Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body's response to an infection. It is caused by your body's defence system (immune system) working overtime to fight infection.

Chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.

Sepsis is also referred to as blood poisoning.

Sepsis may lead to serious complications that affect the kidneys, lungs, brain, and heart, and can even cause death. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die.

Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don't work properly) and/or amputations.

Sepsis can affect people of any age, but those most at risk include:

  • people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, AIDS, or leukemia
  • young children
  • premature babies
  • older adults
  • people who use intravenous drugs such as heroin
  • those with poor dental hygiene
  • people who've had recent surgery or dental work
  • those using a catheter
  • those working in an environment with great exposure to bacteria or viruses, such as in a hospital or outdoors

Some common causes of infections that can cause sepsis include:

  • central line infection, such as from a dialysis catheter or chemotherapy catheter
  • dental extractions or infected teeth
  • exposure of a covered wound to bacteria during surgical recovery, or not changing a surgical bandage frequently enough
  • exposure of any open wound to the environment
  • infection by drug-resistant bacteria
  • kidney or urinary tract infection
  • pneumonia
  • skin infection

Early symptoms of sepsis should not be ignored. These include:

  • fever usually higher than 101˚F (38˚C)
  • low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • fast heart rate
  • rapid breathing, or more than 20 breaths per minute
  • nausea and vomiting

Severe sepsis is defined as sepsis with evidence of organ damage that usually affects the kidneys, heart, lungs, or brain. Symptoms of severe sepsis include:

  • patches of discoloured skin
  • noticeably lower amounts of urine
  • dizziness
  • severe problems breathing
  • bluish discolouration of the digits or lips (cyanosis)
  • decrease in platelet count

People who are experiencing septic shock will experience the symptoms of severe sepsis, but they will also have very low blood pressure that doesn't respond to fluid replacement.

This article was first published in the Asian parent.