A one-year-old boy who has had both legs amputated and may still lose his fingers has become the brave face of a deadly outbreak that is surging across Australia.
The Strep A infection that has ravaged little Ryan Lines’ body started with a runny nose but quickly became life-threatening when he went into severe septic shock.
His frantic parents Jessica and Sam Lines rushed their son to hospital at Broken Hill, in western NSW, on December 8, where he went into cardiac arrest for 10 minutes.
Doctors were miraculously able to revive Ryan but his parents were told at the time he would have brain damage and lose parts of his face as well as his legs and hands.
His condition deteriorated so quickly the family were flown to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide for treatment, where Ryan has remained for 62 days.
Last Friday, he had surgery to amputate both his legs below the knee and is due to have more surgery next week to remove all his fingertips, and possibly some fingers.
His mother told Daily Mail Australia of her horror at seeing what seemed like a simple virus develop into a potentially deadly condition.
Brave little Ryan Lines (pictured) contracted the potentially deadly strep A infection
Mum Jessica (left, with husband Sam and their children Ryan, 1, and Rory, 3,) noticed he had a had a runny nose, temperature, and was limp and lethargic. She and husband Sam rushed him to the hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest for 10 minutes
‘I noticed Ryan had a runny nose, temperature, and was very limp and lethargic. This is what made me take him to the hospital,’ Mrs Ryan said.
‘After he cardiac arrested we were told that we could be looking at worst case, where Ryan would have serve brain damage, lose parts of his face and his full legs and hands – thankfully that’s not the case.’
Ryan’s ordeal comes amid growing concern about a rise in potentially deadly Strep A infections sweeping the nation.
Cases have doubled in Western Australia in the past three months in the state’s first major surge of the infection in two decades.
Queensland, NSW and Victorian authorities have also all reported recent spikes in Strep A cases among children.
According to data from the Department of Health’s National Communicable Disease Surveillance Dashboard, there were 1163 cases of iGAS in Australia in 2022.
People who are infected spread the bacteria by coughing, sneezing or talking, which creates respiratory droplets containing the bacteria.
Ryan’s parents were expecting the worst but thankfully doctors managed to revive him.
But his limbs have suffered and turned black as a result of inefficient blood flow
Also known as group A Streptococcus, the bacterial infection is found in the throat and skin but can lead to other invasive infections.
It’s the same infection that led to the death of Perth girl Aishwarya Aswath in 2021 and claimed the lives of at least two other children in Victoria last year.
What makes the bug so deadly is how the germs create a toxin that can make its way into the skin or blood, causing irreparable damage.
Those who go into sepsic shock, as in little Ryan’s case, can develop small blood clots, preventing blood from flowing to the hands, fingers, toes and feet. Once this happens, the tissue begins to turn black and die, requiring amputation.
Last Friday he had surgery to amputate both his legs below the knee and is due to have surgery next week to remove all his fingertips, and possibly some fingers (pictured after surgery)
‘Our little boy is such a miracle but the reality is that Ryan was very very sick,’ Jess said
‘When you go into severe septic shock so many things happen to your body that I didn’t know could happen,’ Mrs Lines said.
‘[Ryan] struggled with a collapsed lung and also had to have dialysis treatment a few times to help his kidneys, many doctors are amazed at how good his heart is.’
Prior to surgery, his parents ‘couldn’t even comprehend’ that Ryan’s ‘perfect little feet’ needed to be amputated.
‘The doctors aren’t sure if they will leave the fingers as is or do a surgery to help regenerate new cells and skin by sewing Ryan’s fingers inside his stomach/groin for a few weeks – this will hopefully be able to give him more length to his fingers,’ Mrs Lines said.
‘Our little boy is such a miracle but the reality is that Ryan was very very sick.
A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the family while 500km away from home. After just four days a staggering $101,000 has been donated
What are the symptoms of group A streptococcal (strep A) infection?
Group A, also known by the abbreviation GAS, is a type of bacteria often found in the throat and on the skin. Group A streptococcal infections commonly cause sore throats, also known as strep throat.
In rare cases the bacteria can also cause a severe, life-threatening infection known as invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS).
Strep throat symptoms may include a sore throat and tonsils, pain when swallowing, fever, muscle aches and pains, and tiredness.
Scarlet fever symptoms include a very red, sore throat, swollen glands and fever. Around 12 to 48 hours after infection, red blotches can appear on the skin, usually on the face, neck, underarms or groin. Red bumps can also form on the tongue, sometimes called a ‘strawberry tongue’.
Impetigo causes sores on the skin that tend to form blisters. These blisters can burst and leave a moist area with a yellow brown crust at the edge.
Cellulitis involves an area of skin becoming red and inflamed, painful and swollen, while the skin will often feel tight and warmer to the touch than the surrounding skin.
Necrotising fasciitis is a serious skin infection that can cause deep, painful skin sores as well as fever, diarrhoea or vomiting, septic shock and organ failure.
‘We aren’t sure what Ryan’s future looks like but we know we will try our hardest to give him the best life possible.
‘Everyone is so surprised that he survived, and the outcome has been more positive then what we thought it would be.’
With the family currently living 500km from home and unsure how to pay medical bills, a GoFundMe page has been created on behalf of Mr and Mrs Lines.
After just four days a staggering $101,000 has been donated to support the family.
Mrs Ryan has been keeping their supporters updated by sharing videos and photos on her Instagram page.
Parents have been urged to be vigilant and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms of Strep A emerge.
They include a sore throat, fevers or chills, dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, skin infection and abdominal pain.
Jess and Sam Lines also have another three-year-old son, Rory (left)
Strep A kills more than 600,000 people worldwide each year, according to Telethon Kids Institute executive director Jonathan Carapetis. School-aged children, the elderly and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable (pictured: Ryan at 11 months old)
Strep A kills more than 600,000 people worldwide each year, according to Telethon Kids Institute executive director Jonathan Carapetis told The West Australian.
He warned the infection could kill within hours.
‘I’d describe it as the nastiest bug you’ve probably never heard of… it’s the sort of bug that can kill you in hours,’ Professor Carapetis said.
‘If a kid is getting sick very quickly, that’s a potential emergency and you don’t wait until tomorrow to see the GP, you take them straight to the emergency department. Literally, children can go to bed and never wake up.’
School-aged children, the elderly and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable.