An 11-year old Mississauga girl, Nupur Mate (Nupur) recently had two limbs amputated following a delayed diagnosis of a serious bacterial infection (septic shock) caused by streptococcus Group A (also known as Strep A). The child’s family is now questioning why doctors at Trillium Hospital did not realize the severity of her condition much sooner.
What is Strep A?
Group A streptococcus (“GAS”, or “Strep A”) is a common bacterium that lives in the nose and throat.
However, in some circumstances, the consequences of Strep A can be devastating, or even fatal. If the Strep A bacteria enters a sterile part of the human body where bacteria are generally not found (such as muscle tissue, the lungs, the lining of the brain, or the bloodstream), and aren’t treated by antibiotics, more serious consequences can result. This is sometimes referred to as invasive group A strep.
Two of the most dangerous illnesses resulting from an invasive Strep A infection are necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS):
- Flesh-eating disease is precisely what it sounds like: a rapidly spreading infection that destroys the layers of tissue that surrounds muscles. About 20-30 percent of these cases are fatal;
- Strep A can lead to toxic shock, as it did in the case of 11-year-old Nupur. STSS causes a person’s blood pressure to drop rapidly, the immune system to react, and vital organs such as kidneys, lungs, or liver to fail. If a child develops STSS, the mortality rate is about 50 percent.
Early treatment with antibiotics is critical in invasive strep A cases, and can reduce the risk of death.
Families whose children have been affected by complications arising from bacterial infections, sepsis or septic shock may wish to consult with an experienced and respected medical malpractice lawyer to understand what their options are going forward. They may be entitled to compensation for their child’s injury to assist them in moving forward.
Septic Shock: What Happened in This Case?
The Mate family saga began when Nupur complained about a headache. The child had a 39-degree fever with symptoms that otherwise seemed to indicate a cold or the flu. However, Nupur’s family became concerned when she could not stop shivering and took her to the Trillium Hospital close to their home.
Nurses at the hospital told the family that Nupur had the flu. The next morning, Nupur woke up with severe pain in her left arm and right leg, and the family returned to the hospital. Both blood work and X-rays came back clear, and doctors suggested it was a case of influenza B. A few days later, Nupur’s hands and feet felt cold to the touch, and she reported that they were completely numb. Her mother called 911, and they rushed back to Trillium. In the ambulance, the child’s blood pressure plummeted. On arrival, a nurse announced, “she’s dead”. A team of doctors took turns performing CPR on Nupur. She was eventually taken to the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and given a strong dose of antibiotics to prevent the bacterial infection that had ravaged her limbs from spreading further.
Nupur spent more than one week on life support and seventeen days in the intensive care unit (ICU) at SickKids. While she was there, blood culture results revealed that she had a bacterial infection caused by Strep A. Unfortunately, doctors had to amputate Nupur’s left arm above the elbow and right leg partially below the knee (the limbs she had complained of pain in previously) in order to stop the infection. Nupur remains at SickKids on dialysis, as her kidneys continue to heal.
Other Life-Threatening Cases of Strep A
Since the Mate family’s story made the news, two other families have approached the CBC to share stories of their similar experiences.
The Cherian family shared the story of their four-year-old son, Emanuel. After Emanuel became ill with fever and vomiting, doctors advised his parents to give him Tylenol and have him rest. When Emanuel’s symptoms did not improve, his parents brought him to SickKids, where his heart stopped shortly after they arrived at the hospital.
It turned out that Emanuel had sepsis affecting his organs. He was given heavy doses of an antibiotic and is now at home, recovering. His parents will be filing a complaint with the hospital ombudsman, and question, much like the Mate family is, how the infection could have gone unnoticed for so long.
The Jalalvandi family shared the story of their two-and-a-half old son, whose fever, accompanied by soreness in his hip, were initially diagnosed as flu. After the family arrived at SickKids, doctors informed them that their son was “within seconds of not surviving”. The boy was rushed into surgery to drain the infection and was given blood transfusions because the level of infection had been so high.
In all of these cases, strep A was not identified as the culprit behind these children’s symptoms until they all had septic shock.
Early Symptoms of Serious Infections
There are some signs of the serious illnesses that can result from Strep A that people should be aware of.
Early signs of flesh eating disease include:
- Severe pain and swelling;
- Redness at the site of a wound.
The early signs and symptoms of STSS include:
- Flu-like symptoms;
- Abrupt onset of either generalized or localized severe pain (often in an arm or a leg):
- A “flat” red rash over large parts of the body (in about 10% of cases).
How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?
The medical malpractice lawyers at Sommers Roth & Elmaleh in Toronto have helped many families whose children have been affected by complications arising from bacterial infections, sepsis, and septic shock.
Our successful litigation on behalf of children who have suffered devastating injury from bacterial infection and sepsis, including brain damage, have been reported in the Toronto Star:
- “Tragic night caused family years of grief- Settlement may cost hospital up to $21 million” and;
- “3.2 million malpractice award ‘won’t being arm back’ girl says”-also summarized at “Plaintiffs Successful at Trial — Family of 6 Year Old Girl Recovers Largest Ever Canadian Malpractice Award as a Result of Amputated Arm (1986)“
Some of our other successful litigation of bacterial infection and sepsis cases include:
- “Up to $23 million for an inaccurate Hospital laboratory report causing a missed diagnosis of bacterial infection and sepsis in baby. Girl, almost a teenager, suffers from severe disabilities.“
- “Negligent Hospital and Doctors Fail to Identify Symptoms of Infection – Family of Brain Injured Baby Recovers over $4 Million“
- “Man’s Leg Amputated After Team of Specialists Cause Persistent Infection — Settles Case for Significant Damages“
In our firm’s experience, sepsis or septic shock caused by a Group A strep infection can lead to numerous serious impairments including coma, blindness, organ failure, severe nerve damage, malaise and brain damage. This can have a long-lasting, or even permanent impact on the life of the person who was infected, and on their family.
Families affected by medical error, such as misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of group A strep infections or septic shock, may be entitled to full compensation for their child’s injury. Such compensation includes restitution for any financial losses or expenses resulting from the injury (including loss of income), as well as money to cover the purchase of equipment or services that may be required following the injury.
If your child has been seriously affected by a bacterial infection or septic shock, contact Sommers Roth & Elmaleh. As one of the oldest medical malpractice firms in Toronto, we are highly respected in both the medical and legal fields and have helped clients from across Canada. Our goal is to ensure that no matter what the future may bring, your injured or disabled family member will always be secure and have their needs provided for. Call us at 1-416-961-1212 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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