A Michigan mom is warning other parents to pay attention to their kids and take action if they seem unwell after her son developed strep A and influenza A infections in late December and had to get a double amputation earlier this month.
Michele Stevenson of Grand Blanc, Michigan, told "Good Morning America" her son Kaden, 7, started to get sick right before Christmas but she didn't think it was anything serious. She said he told her he felt tired and she thought he possibly had a stomach bug or a cold and let him rest. But after about four days, Kaden didn't seem to be getting any better -- instead, he seemed to be getting progressively worse.
"I'm thinking maybe he might have the flu just because of the pain he kept talking about. So I'm thinking it might be just body aches or something like that. But by the time I got to him, I couldn't put his shoes on, I couldn't put his coat on, he was in that much pain," Stevenson recalled.
"Something just felt off," the mom of one said. "So I looked him over. His right leg was swollen. He had a rash all over his body. His eyes look puffy to me and it seemed like that all happened within a short period of time."
Stevenson said she took Kaden to Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint, but shortly thereafter, doctors told her they needed to transfer Kaden for higher-level care.
"The ER doctor sat down in front of me and gave me the most serious look I've ever seen a doctor give me and said, 'Your son is really sick,'" Stevenson recounted. "By the next day, they were telling us that they were about to transfer us to another hospital that Kaden needed a pediatric orthopedic surgeon … but I knew it was really serious the moment they said, 'It's going to be in a matter of minutes.' They were just waiting on the helicopter to arrive."
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention renewed their December warning about invasive strep A Wednesday, noting that at least five children in Illinois have reportedly died following infections this year. The season for invasive strep A tends to run between December through April and this type of bacterial infection can be more dangerous because it can impact multiple parts of the body, such as a person's blood, bones or lungs.
In addition, although the number of influenza cases have been relatively low across the U.S., multiple strains of the influenza A virus have been in circulation, according to data from the CDC.
With her son's flu and strep infections, Stevenson said she didn't initially realize how bad it could've been.
"I didn't hear about [strep] really until we got in the hospital and I heard about other kids at the same time had the same thing my son had," Stevenson said. "One little boy didn't make it. I'm hearing this family sad and crying and saying goodbye to their son, and my son's here still fighting for his life. My heart goes out to that family."
Although Stevenson said it has been an "extremely scary' three months for her and her son, she said she feels grateful for the doctors, nurses and medical professionals who "saved his life" and cared for the young boy.
"[Kaden] said the other little boy that died, he was sad that he died, but he was going to live for him. He was going to be strong for the little boy," Stevenson said.
"As a mother, as a parent, as a person in general, I don't want anybody else to have to go through this. This has been horrifying," she added.
According to Stevenson, Kaden underwent amputations for both of his legs on March 3 and is now looking forward to receiving what he calls his "robot legs" or prosthetic legs.
"He always talks about [how] he misses the old times and he misses when he could walk and how things used to be but he said he's kind of happy. He likes his new legs," Stevenson said.
As Kaden starts a new chapter on the road to recovery, Stevenson said she hopes to raise awareness for other parents.
"If your kid has any of those signs of fever, they complain of pain, you see any rashes, just take them to the emergency." Stevenson said. "Catch it early. That's the biggest thing. And listen to your kids. They tell you they don't feel good? Don't just sweep it under the rug, assuming that it's a little cold. Get it checked out."