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Posted on: March 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm
Last updated: March 26, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Four-year-old Sienna Rasul from Aberfan, South Wales, fought a fierce battle for her life at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, after she tried on different shoes without socks at a store. The doctors said a “breach” in her skin, which could have been a graze, cut or bite most likely allowed a bacterial infection into her bloodstream, which led to sepsis.

Sienna’s diagnosis and treatment

Speaking to MetroUK, 26-year-old Jodie Thomas, Sienna’s mother said she was devastated when she got news about her baby’s condition [1].

“I was really shocked when the doctors said it was from trying on new shoes. I’ve been worried sick, they’ve had to drain all the poison from her leg.”

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Sienna and her mother had gone shopping for summer shoes. She tried on various types and sizes of shoes, but she wasn’t wearing socks. The next day, she fell desperately ill and was in a lot of pain.

At the hospital, the doctor immediately diagnosed her with sepsis, a serious complication which occurs from when harmful microorganisms make their way into the blood [2]. The infected area was marked, and the doctors immediately assumed they’d have to operate on her. Thankfully, they found a better solution.

“I drove her straight into hospital, she was shaking and twitching – it was horrible to see my little girl like that,” the mom of three said. “They said it was sepsis and thought they would have to operate. But the doctors have managed to drain all the pus from her leg and say the antibiotic drip will do the job.”

Recovery

After five days in the children’s ward, Sienna was discharged and allowed to go home. However, her mom was given strict appointments as the little girl was still under observation. Sienna’s mom admits feeling guilty over not being more proactive, but she’s thankful her daughter made it through. She issued a stern warning to all parents out there to ensure their kids are wearing socks while trying on new shoes.

I knew you risk getting things like athlete’s foot from trying on shoes but blood poisoning is far more serious,” she said. “You don’t know whose feet have been in the shoes before you. Sienna has been really ill, the infection was moving up her leg and spreading to the rest of her body. I’m so glad I got her to the hospital quickly. With moms and dads doing back-to-school shopping, I would advise them to take a spare pair of socks with them.”

Speaking on the little girl’s ordeal, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. William Schaffner said the girl must have had some form of abrasion on her foot for the condition to have occurred.

“That abrasion provided a location for bacteria to enter her body,” says Dr. Schaffner. “About 99% of the time, those wounds will heal without any difficulty, but occasionally, they will cause further problems. Children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are more at risk, he adds, but both infections and sepsis can also happen to perfectly healthy people.”

More about sepsis

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According to Consumer Reports, more than one million people develop sepsis each year in the US, and about 250,000 deaths are attributed to the condition [3]. Sepsis is not infection per se, but rather your body’s response to an infection. It’s a life-threatening condition which usually occurs after the body has been attacked by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection [4]. The immune system release chemicals to attempt to fight this infection. The body may have a negative reaction to these chemicals, triggering an inflammatory response throughout the body, which is called “septic shock.” This dangerous condition can cause multiple organ failures and can even lead to death.

Sepsis is very serious and progresses quickly. In some cases, limbs are amputated to prevent it from spreading.

Symptoms of sepsis include high fever, increased heart rate, fast-paced breathing, skin discoloration, pus-filled swelling, fatigue, and muscle twitching. People who are more likely to develop sepsis from an infection include [4]:

  • Children under 1 and older adults
  • Patients with diabetes or cirrhosis
  • Patients who have formerly been placed on antibiotics or corticosteroid treatments
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • People with open wounds and injuries, especially burn patients

Dr. Schaffner believes that Sienna may not have contracted the bacterial infection from the shoes. There’s a high probability that the microorganisms already living on her skin could have come in contact with her abrasion.

He further explained that Group A streptococcus is one of the numerous bacteria that live in some of the open organs of the human body. They are harmless, but when they come in contact with a wound, the result can be fatal.

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“If we take cultures of all of our feet, 100% of us will have bacteria on them at the present time,” says Dr. Schaffner. “So let’s not implicate the shoe or the shoe store as the source of the bacteria, but rather let’s focus on the important thing—which is to pay attention anytime, anywhere we have a break in the skin.”

Staying safe

Sepsis can be prevented by proper hygiene (handwashing, wound care, bathing) and quick action upon the first sign of an infection. The condition can occur from an infection on any part of the body. Even though Dr. Schaffner believes that there’s a good chance the infection didn’t come from the shoes, he still insists that it’s important for everyone, especially children, to wear socks or nylon proofs while trying on new shoes. People should try to minimize their barefoot activities, especially at the beach. Wear flip flops all the time.

When an infection gets itchy, red, pussy, painful or swollen, it’s important to go to the doctor immediately. It may be something an antibiotic will clear, or it could be more serious.

It’s also important to bathe regularly and clean wounds with antiseptics immediately. Get annual flu vaccinations which may help to reduce the chances of an infection leading to sepsis.

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