Cathy Kassis, 5, was misdiagnosed by doctors as having a common cold, but ended up dying from the bacterial infection Strep A
A family is grappling with the unexpected loss of their 5-year-old daughter.
Justin Sutton, a Bathurst, Australia resident, recounted how his step-daughter, Cathy Kassis, 5, was taken to the doctor's office by her mother, Jasmine Worobez. Doctors said Cathy was suffering from a mere cold and would soon recover.
But medical professionals later realized that Cathy had been afflicted by Strep A, a bacterial strain that initially causes a sore throat, scarlet fever, and skin lesions, as reported by News.com.au.
By the time the infection was identified, it had progressed to a point where Cathy's body had gone into failure, leaving little chance for recovery.
“After three days she had lost her voice completely, so we were obviously a bit concerned,” Sutton told 7News. “But the doctors just said it was a viral infection and to keep doing what we’re doing and let it run its course.”
But soon she couldn't breathe well. “She wasn't breathing properly ... it was almost like an asthma attack or what it's like to watch someone with emphysema trying to breathe," Sutton said.
During Cathy’s hospital stay, doctors conducted COVID-19 and RSV tests, both of which yielded negative results. Eventually they informed the family that Cathy was grappling with a viral infection and discharged her to return home.
A few days later, on August 28, Cathy’s lips reportedly turned blue. Her mother called an ambulance.
“She was going in and out of consciousness and had sort of collapsed in Jazz’s arms,” Sutton said.
While conversing with emergency services over the phone, Sutton administered CPR for approximately 15 minutes. Shortly thereafter, paramedics arrived.
Cathy was transported by air to Westmead Children's Hospital, where she was declared dead.
“They told us she had been pronounced as brain dead. The coroner found the cause of death was strep A, and Westmead had found that out through a simple throat swab,” Sutton said.
Strep A claims the lives of 50,000 individuals worldwide each year and afflicts approximately 750 million people. Australia has witnessed a surge in cases of this disease among children, as revealed in a study published in Lancet Regional Health. Between July 2018 and December 2022, three children succumbed to complications stemming from strep A infection.
The study examined data from the Pediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) Network, highlighting alarming statistics. The study identified a concerning statistic: 280 pediatric patients under the age of 18 were admitted to five prominent Australian pediatric hospitals located in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, all battling the same infection.
Among these young patients, 84 experienced severe complications, including toxic shock and the devastating necrotizing disease known for its flesh-eating properties.
Infections involving strep A bacteria are commonplace during childhood, typically resulting in short-lived and minor illnesses that respond well to antibiotics. The transmission of these bacteria often occurs through close contact with an infected individual via activities like sneezing, coughing, or contact with an open wound. However, in sporadic and rare instances, strep A infection can escalate into a severe form of illness known as invasive strep A.
“It could’ve been treated with just a normal course of antibiotics,” Sutton told the outlet. “But what I’ve said to everyone is we’re going to worry about those doctors later because that’s a fight for a different day. We really just want people to be aware of it and to tell people to trust their instinct when something doesn’t feel right.”
However, amidst these tragic circumstances, Sutton expressed that Cassie's legacy endures through the salvation of three young children's lives thanks to her selfless act of organ donation.
“I just want people to know who Cathy is and what she was able to do,” Sutton said. “She epitomizes a real life superhero, and not many people can say that. Something that’s been the worst moment of our lives ... at least she was able to save three other families, which is a beautiful thing.”
In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been established to provide support for Cassie's family during this challenging period.
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