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Hamilton family raising awareness about Strep A after sudden death of toddler

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A plaster cast of his daughter’s hand is the closest Eric Muley will get to holding his child’s hand again.

“This is the hand they made for us at the hospital when she passed,” Eric says, gesturing at the small sculpture that is now mounted on the wall of his Hamilton, Ont., home.

Two-year-old Nevaeh Muley died suddenly of a Strep A bacterial infection earlier this month. Now her parents are looking to raise awareness about the invasive infection as they try to pick up the pieces.

Nevaeh was known for being an adventurous and brave toddler who loved to dance.

“Her all-time favourite thing was dancing,” Eric says. “Days prior to her getting sick, she was dancing. We have videos of her dancing in the front room.”

Earlier this month, Nevaeh came down with a fever. Her other siblings had colds around the same time, so her parents weren’t surprised.

“All of our kids were sick. They got better. So we just thought 'OK, Nevaeh you're next,’” Eric explains.

Her mother, Donna Johnson, was able to bring her temperature down within hours of symptoms showing up. She put the toddler to bed, but by the next morning, her symptoms worsened.

“She changed her diaper and noticed she had blotches. The first sign of anything was the blotches [while] changing her diaper. And she's like ,'We just have to go to the hospital,”' Eric said, adding Nevaeh seemed disoriented.

The girl was rushed to hospital and went into cardiac arrest. She was revived, but it happened a second time and she didn’t survive. All of it happened suddenly.

“We were trying to rub her head and hold her hands and try to talk to her – ‘Mom and Dad are here. It's OK, honey,'” Donna said.

“When they emptied her lung, it was in her right lung, they said it was Strep A pneumonia.”

STREP A CASES RISING

Rising cases of Strep A, especially in children, have prompted alerts from several health organizations around the world. Public Health Ontario noted a jump in December.

Group A Streptococcus is not uncommon, but it becomes invasive when it gets into parts of the body that normally have no bacteria.

“If I could just see her one last time and just tell her that we were there at the hospital. 'You weren't alone,'” Eric said.

“I think the toughest was when they started unplugging her – when they stopped, and they were like, 'It's too late.' That was probably the toughest.”

Now Nevaeh’s parents are hoping to raise awareness about Strep A for other families, urging them not to take any symptoms lightly.

“Even if it's just a fever – take them. Make sure you request to be checked for Strep A. I know hospitals are treating it like a cold or flu,” Eric says.

Not only is the family faced with a permanent hole, they’ve also been met with unexpected funeral-related costs. They launched a fundraiser to help with some of that.

As much as the financial help has been appreciated, they know no amount of money will bring their daughter back.

“Even eating, she has her own plate but she always came over to me and wanted to eat what was on my plate so I could share it with her,” said Johnson.

Now they say every plate will remain a little fuller, leading to an unexplainable feeling of emptiness.

Correction

An earlier version of this article classified Strep A as a viral infection. This article has been updated to reflect Strep A is in fact a bacterial infection.

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