Childrens Health

10yo Girl’s Tragic Battle After Strep A Infection Takes 17% of Her Body

The Murphys have gone through heartbreak no parent should ever experience after tragically losing their 10-year-old daughter to a deadly infection.

Vivienne lost her battle with Strep A infection a potentially deadly bacterial infection – just two weeks after she first complained of a sore throat. Now the heartbroken parents have shared the details leading up to their daughter’s death in the hopes that it will help save other children.

It started with a sore throat

The devastated parents from Ireland explained that it all started when dad, Dermot, picked up Vivienne from school on Valentine’s Day in 2019.

He noticed she seemed under the weather, less energetic than usual. She complained about feeling poorly and having a sore throat.

That evening, Vivienne’s parents, Dermot and Lilly, attended a funeral and left her with her brother who wound up calling and asking them to return home immediately. Vivienne was not well with a high fever, aches, and a rash on her body.

Parental intuition and three GPs later

Over the next five days, they saw three GPs, who all sent them home telling the Murphys their little girl was merely suffering from a virus infection, most likely the flu. But their parental instincts thought otherwise.

“We realized she was still getting worse, and the rash was really angry looking. We were panicking now, and spoke to the doctor we had spoken to originally and told her our child was getting worse, not better,” Dermot said.

Vivienne’s condition only worsened, and when they saw her knee swelling to the point she could no longer walk, they rushed her to Cork University Hospital (CUH) in the middle of the night.

When they arrived at the hospital, a nurse noticed an alarming black mark on Vivienne’s leg. Blood tests were done and the Murphy’s were told their daughter was critically ill.

According to the doctors, Vivienne had necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection, also known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, caused by Group A Streptococcus infection, that spreads quickly throughout the body.

Vivienne’s black mark was growing on her knee as well, which meant she also had sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial infection of the blood, and she was going into shock.

Vivienne was transferred to Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin and underwent surgery to try and stop the sepsis from spreading any further.

‘Removed 17% of your daughter’s body’

The Strep A infection had spread incredibly fast causing the surgeons to cut away nearly 1/5th of Vivienne’s little body, including her right leg, buttocks, abdomen, and some of her left leg.

“When I heard 17%…I thought when we were at Cork [Hospital], we would probably have got away with 1%, the black mark, cut it out there. 17% is burned into my brain.”

After the surgery, Vivienne was in intensive care. However, tragically the disease and the surgery proved too much for her fragile body and she went into cardiac arrest.

“They were trying to bring her back, and they’re pumping and pushing and trying hard to save Vivienne,” Mr Murphy recalled.

One of the doctors told us to scream at your daughter, call her back – she will know your voice”.

Vivienne came back but tests revealed she was brain dead.

‘Torture on top of torture’ 

The Murphys were told there was no hope for Vivienne, so they decided to end her life support to protect her dignity.

Vivienne’s last moments were the most distressing the Murphys ever experienced as their little girl kept fighting and coming back.

“It was torture, on top of torture, on top of torture. It was shocking. One day we are begging her to stay alive, the next day we are begging her to die. It was the longest night of our lives,” Dermot said.

Their little girl passed away on 1st March 2019. Her last words before her death were to a nurse, prior to undergoing surgery.

Strep A infection - Vivienne Murphy's story
Vivienne was just 10 years old. Source: Twitter

As her dad recalls, she said,  “Thank you, nurse. I’m sorry for crying. I know you’re only trying to help me.”

That was the dignity she had…she had so much empathy. The world is a sadder place without her.” 

Please be aware of the signs of Strep A

Through their sadness and despair, the Murphys hope their story will help save other children. They are resolute in educating the public, especially parents, of the dangers and symptoms of Strep A infection.

“If your child has a fever, or a rash, be vigilant, these things can change so quickly. Our daughter started off with signs and symptoms and within ten days she was gone. 

We are just begging and pleading that parents look out for these things, don’t be submissive, and don’t ever think that you are being an overreacting parent, because you are not. If Vivienne’s story could only save one child, that’s a plus.” 

This is important, heartfelt advice stemming from the heartbreak of a horrific tragedy no parent should ever have to endure. Trust your parental intuition and advocate for your loved ones.

What is a Strep A infection?

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is often found in the throat or on the skin of individuals. Infections by this bacterium can usually cause a sore throat, commonly known as strep throat. Infection can also cause scarlet fever, typically evidenced by a rash. And, it can also cause skin infections, like impetigo and cellulitis.

In rare cases, such as Vivienne Murphy’s, it can be severe and become a life-threatening infection, known as invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS), which most commonly causes necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) or Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome that can harm the heart and kidneys.

Children often get Strep A infections from being in daycare, kindy and other settings with children. In most instances, children will require a course of antibiotics and be fine.

However, as parents, we need to be aware that Strep A infection can lead to Invasive Group A Strep.

Signs of Strep A Infection

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, body aches, nausea and vomiting and fatigue
  • Strep throat or tonsillitis – a sore red throat, swollen glands, pain with swallowing
  • Scarlet fever – a rash, swollen glands, blotchy skin
  • Impetigo – blistering scabs and sores on the body
  • Cellulitis – red, painful and swollen skin that may be warm or tight to touch

Signs of Invasive Group A Strep 

  • Fevers 
  • Chills/sweats 
  • Dizziness 
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain 
  • Headache or stiff neck 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Red warm painful and rapidly spreading skin infection

According to 9 News, hundreds of cases of this life-threatening disease, Strep A infection, have been identified across Australia. Over 500 official cases have been identified in 2023 so far compared to approximately 1,200 in 2022. Two children died of the disease in Victoria in 2022.

It is important to remain vigilant and consult your pediatric physician should your child experience any Strep A symptoms.

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Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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