Mia – Sepsis Took Her Hands and Feet, but Not Her Spirit


Last year, Mia was a typical 4-year old girl attending Kindergarten, going to swimming practices, and taking gymnastics lessons. Besides colds and occasional bouts of gastro, our family was rarely ill. However, on October 15th, 2017, our lovely girl went from a perfectly happy, active, cheeky, and healthy little girl to critically-ill and in intensive care.

Initially, Mia presented with symptoms of gastro, including vomiting, diarrhea, high temperature, and lethargy on Friday evening. On Saturday morning at a doctor's visit, they diagnosed Mia as having a gastro bug. By Saturday afternoon, Mia seemed a bit disorientated and unable to focus.  She was weak and couldn't put any weight on her legs.  We took her to the children's emergency department. She was diagnosed with Influenza B and Viral Myositis and sent home to rest. During Saturday night, we checked on her every two hours and she seemed stable. On Sunday, she watched TV and generally rested without any noticeable change in her condition. At about 5pm on Sunday, we noticed a light purplish rash on her legs. The rash blanched, which is meant to be a good thing, but we decided to take her to the emergency department again. On arrival, Mia deteriorated extremely rapidly and was rushed to PICU (pediatric intensive care unit).

Poor little Mia was unimaginably unlucky to contract influenza A, influenza B, respiratory syncytial virus, and invasive streptococcal A bacterial infection – all at the same time. Her immune system went into overdrive and she developed sepsis. Her little heart gave out the night she was admitted to PICU, but she was thankfully saved with CPR. She was on life support with around 47 medications, multiple nurses, doctors, and lifesaving equipment. She underwent multiple surgeries to relieve tissue swelling pressure in her legs (fasciotomy) as well as abdomen investigative surgery. She was not expected to live.

Every minute in PICU was heart wrenching touch and go and we watched, hopeful that her lungs and organs would recover enough for survival. Our brave little Mia showed us her courage, fighting spirit, and will to live. After six days, her lungs showed recovery, she started breathing on her own, and was woken up. It was such a relief to have the breathing tube removed and her brought back to consciousness, see her eyes open and hear her say a few words.

She had a bumpy road in the hospital, with a blood yeast infection, multiple surgeries to close her fasciotomies, blood clot, hematoma from her stomach surgery, norovirus, pressure sores, surgical debridement of skin, muscle weakness, as well as being on strong sedative pain medication.

Unfortunately, the combination of sepsis and the medications required to save her life restricted the blood circulation to her limbs, compromising her hands and feet, causing them to die. Initially, we hoped that she would only lose finger tips and maybe toes. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. On November 10th, 2017, her arms were amputated below the elbow. We waited for her skin to heal before her leg amputations on January 3rd, 2018.

Mia’s arms have healed well and she amazes everyone with her resilience and ability to adapt. Her strength and general health have returned and she now attends 4 full days at school! Mia can write and draw with her arms, she is very efficient on her iPad, she is an awesome power wheelchair driver, and she is extremely mobile crawling around the house on her elbows and knees. Nothing will hold her back!

Her right knee, where the skin was affected most, took a long time to heal and required skin graft surgery. Finally, on a happy day at the end of July, Mia was able to start wearing prosthetic legs and is learning to walk all over again. She can now take a few wobbly independent steps. It has been amazing to see her determination and improvement.

Thankfully Mia’s beautiful, cheeky, caring personality is alive and well.  She has shown such strength, bravery, adaptability and patience.  She is such a joy to be with and continues to impress and amaze us.

Before Mia became ill last year, we had never before heard of sepsis, nor had many of our friends and family.  Through Mia's story and journey we are keen to help the medical community in improving detection and prevention of sepsis, as well as raise public awareness about sepsis.

Please join us and share with your friends and family, Mia’s journey back to independence and onto amazing achievements at Movement for Mia

The article above was written by Amy and Peter Wilkison, Mia's parents, and is shared here with their explicit consent. The views in the article do not necessarily represent those of the Global Sepsis Alliance. They are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The whole team here at the GSA & World Sepsis Day wishes to thank Amy, Peter, and their family for sharing Mia's story and for fighting to raise awareness of sepsis.

To help us avoid similar stories in the future, please consider donating to support our cause. Thank you.

Marvin Zick