Toddler loses legs, fingers after doctors failed to spot toxic shock syndrome

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Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections that enter the bloodstream through wounds on the skin.

It started with a simple burn.

According to a Mirror story, three-year-old Rueben Harvey-Smith had touched an iron and scorched himself.

Shortly after that, the boy developed fever and sore throat. His concerned mother brought him to the doctors, where he was diagnosed with tonsillitis.

The following day, Rueben was fighting for his life.

Unconvinced of her son’s diagnosis, Lou called the burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for a second opinion. Immediately, the doctors suspected toxic shock.

“The infection is caused by normally harmless bacteria entering wounds and releasing poisonous toxins into the blood,” the Mirror report said. “It can kill if not treated quickly—and is a recognised danger with burns.”

Toddler Loses Legs, Fingers After Doctors Failed To Spot Toxic Shock Syndrome

Photo credit: PA / Mirror

Sadly, the doctors who checked Reuben had failed to spot the infection. It eventually spread to the boy’s legs, both of which needed to be amputated.

“The consultant had tears in her eyes when she told me he would have to have an amputation,” Lou said. “Reuben looked at his amputated legs and said, ‘Poorly feet gone, get new ones’.”

Meanwhile, in a statement, Ipswich Hospital, who had first diagnosed Reuben, said: “We’ve offered an unreserved apology to Reuben and his family and are working with them.”

Now Lou is taking legal action against the hospital, who has since admitted that amputation could have been avoided had they been able to spot the infection sooner.

“I try not to get angry—at the end of the day I’ve still got my son,” the mother from Chelmon­diston, Suffolk said. “What I have to do now is make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Find out more about toxic shock syndrome on the next page

What is toxic shock syndrome and how to spot it?

According to Mayo Clinic, toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections.

“Often toxic shock syndrome results from toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria, but the condition may also be caused by toxins produced by group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.”

While both men and women of all ages can be affected by the infection, those who have skin wounds and have recently undergone surgery are more susceptible to it.

Its symptoms include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

If you have recently used a tampon or have a skin or wound infection, it’s imperative that you get in touch with your doctor to prevent further complications.


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Written by

Nasreen Majid