Justin Sutton was told his five-year-old daughter’s symptoms were simply part of having a common cold.
However, just days later, his daughter Cassie would pass away from a dangerous but entirely preventable condition.
Cassie, who was misdiagnosed with a cold, was actually fighting strep A — a type of bacteria that can cause sore throats, scarlet fever and skin sores.
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Strep A affects about 750 million people globally and kills 500,000 a year.
Speaking out less than a fortnight from Cassie’s death, her heartbroken stepfather and Bathurst local Sutton said they knew in the first few days that something wasn’t right.
“After three days she had lost her voice completely, so we were obviously a bit concerned,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
“But the doctors just said it was a viral infection and to keep doing what we’re doing and let it run its course.”
However, when Cassie’s condition worsened, Sutton, along with Cassie’s mother, Jasmine, raced her to the emergency room.
“She wasn’t breathing properly ... it was almost like an asthma attack or what it’s like to watch someone with emphysema trying to breathe,” Sutton said.
However, at the hospital, the family were given the same advice.
After Cassie’s COVID-19 and RSV tests came back negative, the hospital also advised the family she was suffering from a viral infection and sent her home.
Just days later, Jasmine phoned triple-0 in a panic, as her daughter’s lips turned blue.
“She was going in and out of consciousness and had sort of collapsed in Jaz’s arms,” Sutton said.
“So I started CPR while on the phone to triple-0, and I was doing that for 10 to 15 minutes before the ambulance arrived, and they took over CPR while I set up the defibrillator.”
Cassie was flown in a medical chopper to Westmead Children’s Hospital.
After 78 minutes of CPR, doctors at Westmead sat down and told Jasmine and Justin their worst nightmare had come true.
“On the 28th of August we had a meeting, and they told us she had been pronounced as brain dead,” Justin said.
“The coroner found the cause of death was strep A, and Westmead had found that out through a simple throat swab.”
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‘A real life superhero’
However, despite the tragic set of circumstances, Sutton said Cassie managed to save three young children’s lives through organ donation.
“On September 1st — which actually happens to be Jersey Day (a day dedicated to raising awareness for organ donation) — she donated three organs, and all three recipients are now expected to make a full recovery,” he said.
“I just want people to know who Cathy is and what she was able to do.
“She epitomises a real life superhero, and not many people can say that.
“Something that’s been the worst moment of our lives ... at least she was able to save three other families, which is a beautiful thing.”
Sutton says they are now just taking each day as it comes as they prepare for Cassie’s funeral.
“We’ve got that real feeling of numbness, which is good in a way because we’re able to get on with things and focus on the funeral,” he said.
“But we know our darker days are ahead of us.”
And while nothing will bring Cassie back, Sutton’s says they can’t help but think “what if?”
“It could’ve been treated with just a normal course of antibiotics,” he said.
“But what I’ve said to everyone is we’re going to worry about those doctors later because that’s a fight for a different day.
“We really just want people to be aware of it and to tell people to trust their instinct when something doesn’t feel right.”
Meanwhile, a Go Fund Me page has been set up to help Cassie’s family through this difficult time.
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