4-year-old has leg amputated after surviving rare infection his parents thought was the flu

An Indiana family is speaking out to raise awareness after their 4-year-old son developed a rare infection that led to the amputation of his right leg.

The boy’s parents, Megan and Ben Crenshaw, said they believed their youngest son, Bryson, had just had the flu when he developed a fever in early January.

The couple said they initially cared for Bryson at home, but then followed their parental instincts and took him to the emergency room when his fever continued to rise and his heart rate became rapid. .

“He lay down on my chest and I felt like his heart was about to explode,” Ben Crenshaw told ‘Good Morning America’. “It was like, ‘OK, let’s go now.'”

The Crenshaws, also parents to an 11-year-old son, said ER doctors also thought Bryson had the flu, until they noticed he was limping slightly in his right leg.

Courtesy of the Crenshaw family

Bryson Crenshaw, 4, is pictured with his family in December 2022.

Concerned about his condition, doctors at the local hospital had Bryson transferred to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, about an hour from their home.

By the time Bryson arrived at the hospital, his right leg was completely red and swollen, according to the Crenshaws.

Doctors diagnosed their son with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The disease is also known as “flesh-eating disease” because it can spread rapidly, killing body tissue. The condition can also be fatal if not caught quickly enough, according to the CDC.

The Crenshaws said they had never heard of the disease and that they and doctors did not know how Bryson contracted it.

Necrotizing fasciitis is most often contracted by a tear in the skin, such as a cut or insect bite, which Bryson had none of, according to his parents. In these cases, the most common cause of infection is a group of bacteria called group A streptococcus (group A streptococcus), according to the CDC.

Group A strep is also responsible for common infections like strep throat and tonsillitis, which is swelling of the tonsils in the back of the throat.

“We couldn’t process it,” Megan Crenshaw said. “When we first got to Riley, there were so many people rushing around, talking to us, wanting information, getting information.”

Bryson soon underwent surgery in which doctors removed part of his small intestine and colon, as well as his appendix, as the infection had caused tissue death or necrosis, according to Megan Crenshaw.

“All we heard from every doctor was, ‘Your son is the sickest child in the hospital right now,'” she said. “We didn’t even expect him to survive the first few days because of his illness.”

Mike Dickbernd/Riley Children’s Health

Bryson Crenshaw, 4, had a leg amputation at Indiana University Health’s Riley Hospital for Children.

Bryson defied odds and survived not just the first few days, but a total of 55 days at Riley Hospital for Children. During that time, he was on a ventilator to help him breathe and underwent a dozen surgeries, according to his mother.

In surgery, doctors performed an above-knee amputation on Bryson’s right leg, the leg where the infection first appeared. Because the infection was located so high up in Bryson’s leg, doctors were able to save and use an unaffected part of his lower leg, which will help him walk on a prosthesis later, according to Dr. Christine Caltoum. medical director. of Surgical Operations and Division Chief of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at Riley Hospital.

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“Part of his lower leg was actually used to extend the length of his amputation,” said Caltoum, who was an integral part of Bryson’s care team. “It allows a longer part of the leg to be recovered to make that leg a little more functional for prosthetic use later on.”

Bryson worked in rehab to learn how to get around on his own and how to use a walker and wheelchair. Once his body heals, a custom prosthetic will be made for him so he can start chasing his beloved dog Ace and playing with his brother DJ again.

Mike Dickbernd/Riley Children’s Health

Bryson Crenshaw, 4, had a leg amputation at Indiana University Health’s Riley Hospital for Children.

The Crenshaws said they share their story so other parents know to follow their instincts and take their child to a doctor or hospital if they notice something is wrong.

“The processing time is so short,” said Megan Crenshaw. “I would hate for this to happen to another child and for (caregivers) not to have the information.”

Dr. Stefan Malin, a pediatric critical care physician at Riley Hospital for Children who cared for Bryson, credited the Crenshaws’ quick actions in getting their son to their local emergency room with saving his life.

“When I spoke to Bryson’s mom the first time, she said she thought he had a bug in his stomach or something, and I think she realized something was wrong. not and she got him to a place that sent him here quickly,” Malin said, later adding, “The important part is being aggressive early on.”

Mike Dickbernd/Riley Children’s Health

Bryson Crenshaw, 4, had a leg amputation at Indiana University Health’s Riley Hospital for Children.

Early signs of a life-threatening infection like necrotizing fasciitis include a rapidly spreading area of ​​swollen skin, severe pain, and fever.

Later, it may look like blisters, changes in skin color, or pus at the infected area, as well as feelings of dizziness and fatigue, according to the CDC.

The “first lines of defense” in treating necrotizing fasciitis are IV antibiotics to stop the infection and surgery to remove infected or dead tissue, according to the CDC.

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