7-year-old B.C. girl survives several amputations following aggressive strep A infection

A 7-year-old was hospitalized for strep A — she ended up losing part of her leg, toes, and fingertips.

strep a, split screen of taitlyn ma, 7-year-old BC girl in hospital, amputated right leg after strep a infection
Taitlyn Ma, 7, had her lower right leg amputated following complications of an aggressive strep A infection (photos via Terry Ma).

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A B.C. dad is warning other parents about the dangers of Strep A after his daughter had to get part of her right leg — and all of her left toes — amputated.

Taitlyn Ma, a seven-year-old from Vancouver, B.C., underwent surgery in early August to amputate her lower right leg and left toes, her father, Terry Ma, told Yahoo Canada.

Taitlyn had been hospitalized since May 28 after contracting invasive group A streptococcal — a common bacterial infection that became a life-altering diagnosis.

What happened?

Prior to her summer-long hospital stay, Taitlyn came down with a "basic cough and cold," Terry said. Two to three days after falling ill, Taitlyn's condition worsened — her lips turned purple and she was "gasping for air."

The family brought her to the BC Children's Hospital Emergency Department, and "things spiralled from there," Terry remembers.

Taitlyn was admitted and diagnosed with pneumonia and an aggressive form of group A streptococcal. The then six-year-old was intubated and went into septic shock and acute kidney failure.

little girl in hospital bed hooked up to tubes, Taitlyn Ma, 7, spend weeks in the ICU after contracting an aggressive strep A infection (photo Taitlyns Journey/GoFundMe).
Taitlyn Ma, 7, spend weeks in the ICU after contracting an aggressive strep A infection (photo Taitlyns Journey/GoFundMe).

The doctors "told us that she is very sick and might not make it," Terry said. "No parents ever want to hear that."

After ten touch-and-go days of intubation and several weeks in the ICU, Taitlyn was showing signs of improvement. However, a lack of blood circulation triggered blood clots, turning her fingertips, left forefoot and lower right leg black.

Doctors told the family Taitlyn's fingertips would auto-amputate and fall off on their own. Her lower right leg and left forefoot would need to be surgically removed.

Taitlyn spent her seventh birthday in BC Children's Hospital (photo via Terry Ma).
Taitlyn spent her seventh birthday in BC Children's Hospital (photo via Terry Ma).

Following her life-altering surgery, Terry said his daughter is "acting like [her] normal self again."

"She's young; she's resilient. She's been super strong [throughout] this whole process."

On her long road to recovery, Taitlyn will be fitted with prosthetics and re-learn how to stand, walk and navigate her new normal. Terry Ma has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for Taitlyn's future medical expenses, which has since raised over $55,000.

"She just wants to be able to do things again," Terry said. "She's been sitting in a hospital for three months, so she just wants to get going and return to her regular life."

'You don't want to be too late'

"Pay close attention to your child," Terry told Yahoo Canada. "Parents know their children the best." Pay attention to the small things, even though they may not register as common signs or symptoms.

"When you start seeing little things as abnormal, then it's a bit of a panic button."

It's always safer to get them in and checked out, he explains. "You don't want to be too late."

What is Strep A?

Group A Strep (short for Group A streptococcus) is a common bacterial infection that grows inside the nose, throat and sometimes on the skin.

Group A Strep (GAS) tends to infect the upper respiratory tract, causing strep throat and sinus infections. However, it can also cause skin and soft tissue infections such as impetigo and cellulitis or scarlet fever.

Taitlyn Ma has spent the last three months in BC Children's Hospital (photo via Terry Ma).
Taitlyn Ma has spent the last three months in BC Children's Hospital (photo via Terry Ma).

What is invasive Group A streptococcus?

Group A Strep infections typically result in strep throat. GAS are called "non-invasive" because the infection is on the parts of the body that are exposed to the outside world, like the throat or skin, according to the government of Canada.

"Although Group A Strep can be easily treated with antibiotics, infections can become very dangerous if they become 'invasive,'" says Irene Martin, the head of the Streptococcus and STI Unit at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory.

"Group A Strep becomes invasive when it infects blood or internal body tissues, and it can cause illnesses such as meningitis or flesh-eating disease."

How does Strep A spread?

Strep A is highly contagious and easily spreads from person to person. GAS bacteria can spread through close contact with someone with strep, sharing food and drinks, or breathing in their respiratory droplets. As the bacteria transmits via person-to-person contact, it easily spreads among family or household members.

Strep throat is most common in children ages five to 15; however, anyone can get it.

What are symptoms of Strep A?

While symptoms vary depending on the type of infection, Health Canada says the main signs of non-invasive Group A streptococcus (GAS) include fever, a sore throat and mild skin conditions such as a rash, sores, bumps and blisters.

Invasive infections (iGAS) can include severe symptoms like trouble breathing (pneumonia), a breakdown of the skin and connective tissues (necrotizing fasciitis), a fever, a drop in blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea (toxic shock syndrome).

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