They were just a regular, happy family, celebrating the addition of a child to their little unit back in April 2014.
Just one week after his son was born, Peter Howarth's three-year-old daughter Pippa started to display cold-like symptoms – she had fever and was a bit listless. Her parents, like any other mum and dad, treated what they thought was a cold at home.
But, a few days on, Peter and his wife noticed Pippa's breathing was not quite right. They took her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with pneumonia. However, she also had sepsis which the doctor did not diagnose.
She went into the hospital at 7pm and by 4am the next morning, this little girl took her last breath. Sepsis had claimed her life.
"What people don't know about sepsis is the speed and how quickly it changes a life," Peter told the HuffPost.
Peter describes that fateful day:
I was there at 10 p.m. and she was wired up to drips, but still demanding pink drinks and a story. She was bossing me around, she was perky. It got to 3 a.m. and I thought she wasn't right. She was talking, but it was nonsense and stopped making sense. I got the nurse to come in. They checked on her and there was no mention of sepsis, then off they went. I sat with her half an hour after this point in the room, just holding her hand. I was holding her hand when she stopped breathing. That was it.
I was hustled out, the crash teams came in. She died before my wife got there. After about 20 minutes I was allowed back in the room, and that's when my life changed. Sepsis - I didn't hear that word until she had died. We didn't get a chance to fight, she was gone before we could try. We didn't have a chance, she didn't have a chance. It was a flick of a switch and she was gone.
Basically, while the doctors were treating Pippa for pneumonia, her body was attacking itself due to sepsis. She was dying even as she was being treated.
What is sepsis?
In simple terms, sepsis is a condition where an infection is spread via blood. Because of this, it spreads rapidly.
The condition can develop in two ways, say medical experts: as a result of the body's own defense system or via the infecting agent.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
- A fast heartbeat
- Shortening of breath
- Low blood pressure
But, "you can't always spot the symptoms. I don't know if we ever could have stopped it, unless we said: 'Could it be sepsis?'" Peter said. And this is exactly why parents need to be aware of this condition.
Peter, who shared Pippa's story on World Sepsis Day (September 13) said, "if by doing any type of awareness raising I can help one person ask the question and save one life, that's one family that doesn't have to go through the hell we've had to go through."
We couldn't agree more - awareness in all things related to parenting is key to keeping children safe.