Bianca Castro

Arlington Boy Gets Strep Infection, Nearly Dies Three Days Later

An Arlington mother is warning parents about how a common childhood illness almost killed her son.

Hunter Barker, a first grader in Arlington, came down with a strep infection earlier this year, but in fewer than four days since the onset of symptoms, Hunter was near death.

"He woke up Monday and was like, 'I have a headache,' and I was like, 'it's Monday. We all have headaches. No one wants to go to school.' He had a 99.1, which was nothing," said his mother, and Arlington ISD school teacher Rachel Barker.

By Tuesday, she says his fever climbed to 104.

She says his pediatrician's office told her it was probably a virus, yet by Friday, Hunter had diarrhea, vomiting and exhibited a rash. But then by Saturday, things got worse. 

"I remember thinking, 'what is that? Google, your best and worst friend, made me think it was broken capillaries from vomiting.  I thought, 'well, that made sense,'" said Barker.  

She says even though Hunter seemed in good spirits, she decided to take him to the hospital.

"When we got in there, a paramedic asked, 'when did his lips turn purple?' and that's when I just froze.  I thought, 'it wasn't like that a minute ago,' and we were just getting out of the car," said Barker.

Group A Streptococcus bacteria, which can cause many different infections, including in strep throat, had infected his lungs, resulting in pneumonia.

Since left untreated, doctors believe the Hunter's immune went into overdrive and began attacking his organs, a condition called sepsis.

Sepsis happens when an infection you already have in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. 

Without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"When they told me sepsis, I knew that as bad. My only thought was did we not do enough. Could we could have prevented this?" said Barker.

Even though sepsis triggered by a strep infection is rare, Barker feels parents should know it can happen.

"We took him to the doctor twice! We thought, 'okay, it's a viral thing,'" said Barker. 

Luckily, Hunter responded well to treatment and after two and half weeks in the hospital, he was able to return home.

The Arlington Fire Department arranged for a ride home on a fire truck.

"It made me happy," said Hunter. Barker hopes sharing her story will help educate parents on becoming advocates for their children and to not be afraid to ask more questions or for more tests from their children's pediatricians.

"Ask questions! Ask the questions I didn't ask.  What if I had asked for a chest x-ray? We would have known sooner," said Barker.

Symptoms of sepsis can include confusion, shortness of breath, extreme pain, sweaty skin, high heart rate and fever.

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