A healthy toddler’s parents thought their son would die when an infection caused 80 % of his skin to fall off, leaving gaping wounds.
Eddie Sorensen, three, was initially believed to have meningitis, but when his skin started to shed, leaving open sores, parents Corrinne and Daniel feared he would not survive.
Though he made a rapid recovery and the infection left no scars, there’s no way of knowing whether Eddie will suffer from it again in future.
Corrinne, 36, of Church Street, Leighton Buzzard, said: “It was the scariest day of our lives. We first knew something was wrong because he’s normally very cuddly and wouldn’t let us touch him.
“Then when I changed his nappy and loads of skin fell away, it got very serious.
“He had staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, or SSSS, but doctors had never seen a case of it as bad as Eddie’s. We were like a freak show in the hospital, it was heartbreaking.”
We were like a freak show in the hospital, it was heartbreaking
Eddie’s health began to deteriorate in March last year.
The tot would typically charge into his parents’ bedroom, but one morning the couple could hear him mumbling restlessly over the baby monitor instead. Corrinne, an account manager, said: “Eddie is a really happy child, but that morning he wouldn’t let me cuddle him.
“He was very upset for no apparent reason.
“We knew that meningitis could make children irritable so we first worried it could be that. I looked for rashes and he did have one on his back.”
Corrinne and graphic designer Daniel, 38, took Eddie to the doctors, but were sent to A&E to be tested for meningitis.
By this point, Eddie’s symptoms had worsened.
Corrinne said: “We spotted a few lesions or welts, like a flat blister on the skin. The doctor said it was probably part of the virus.
“The tests ruled out meningitis but I’d noticed that Eddie had slightly bad breath, which wasn’t normal for him. His throat was very red and we were told he had acute tonsillitis and sent home with antibiotics.”
That night, when Eddie was having his nappy changed at bedtime, the skin began to fall away from his groin area.
Corrinne said: “I was petrified when his skin just began to shed.
“I knew he didn’t have tonsillitis because he was still wanting to eat and drink, but this was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
“We rushed back to A&E and saw a second doctor, who gave us a fact sheet for SSSS. It was caused by bacteria – Eddie had a tiny scratch under his eye that he got at nursery and the doctor said the bacteria would have entered that way.”
Eddie’s body reacted particularly badly to the virus and within an hour, he was covered in more welts on his stomach and neck.
He was given intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection and morphine for pain relief.
The family stayed overnight in an isolation room at Milton Keynes Hospital.
But Corrinne and Daniel didn’t sleep, worried that their son’s condition was deadly.
Corrinne said: “We read that with open sores like Eddie’s, you can get a secondary infection which could be fatal. He was in agony and we couldn’t even comfort him because he said it hurt too much.
“No-one had seen a case like it before. Lots of doctors and nurses were coming in to have a look at him. Eddie looked like a burn victim and more lesions carried on appearing.
“It was very frightening. The fact sheet said that SSSS can be fatal, so we were thinking the worst. We thought we were going to lose him.”
Over the next three days, Eddie’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he lost skin from his face as well as his body.
A burns specialist recommended a treatment cream called 50/50, similar to petroleum jelly, to aid healing.
Corrinne said: “We covered Eddie in the cream so he was just a greasy baby sat in his nappy! But it made him feel a lot better and stopped all his sores getting too dry.
“He would sometimes let us hold his hand while he watched a film on the iPad, but apart from that we hardly had any physical contact.
“On the fourth day, he woke up and the skin on his face was already healed. I could have cried, but I didn’t want to upset him. He was all shiny and pink and the sores on his face had gone.”
With a combination of antibiotics and 50/50 cream, Eddie began to heal as quickly as he’d deteriorated.
By the seventh day in hospital, he no longer had any sores and was ready to go home.
Corrinne said: “I woke up one morning in the bed beside his and saw him looking at me with a smile. He asked me for a cheese sandwich and that’s when I knew it was time to go home!
“He then had a roaring competition with his toy dinosaurs on his bed. He’s completely obsessed with dinosaurs but hadn’t wanted to play with them all week.
“He still had lots of flaky skin, but we left that afternoon and were so happy to get back to normality.
Eddie’s hands and feet were the last areas to peel and the skin of his hands came away like gloves the next day, but I knew we didn’t have anything to worry about.”
Eddie’s skin fully healed over the next few weeks and the tot bears no signs of what he went through.
Apart from an extra painful bout of chicken pox earlier this year, it’s hoped that there has been no lasting damage – though the infection could return in future.
Corrinne said: “The scary thing now is that this could happen again if Eddie gets another cut and bacteria gets in. It’s made us very anxious parents – if he falls over we don’t just give the graze a wipe, we’re so careful to clean it thoroughly.
“I hope other parents will be able to pick up on SSSS now if their child starts to show symptoms. I’m glad I trusted my motherly instincts and didn’t just accept that it was tonsillitis.
“Though Eddie was only three at the time, he definitely remembers it. He sometimes says, ‘Do you remember when all my skin fell off?’ He’s an amazing little boy.”