Dad Whose Daughter Died of Sepsis Has a Chilling Warning for Parents

girl who died of sepsis
JustGiving/Peter Howarth

When we think of children and illnesses, sepsis isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind. The infection -- which is caused by a buildup of harmful bacteria and toxins -- typically appears in wounds, something busy kids tend to acquire often. While most of us assume sepsis can be avoided with some antibacterial spray and a band-aid, it is a serious condition, one that could be life-threatening if not treated properly. One father is issuing a chilling warning to parents about the deadly illness after suffering through his own daughter's death.

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Wednesday, September 13, marked the fifth annual World Sepsis Day, a global event that seeks to raise awareness about the importance of properly treating sepsis. Dad Peter Howarth has come forward with a desperate plea to parents everywhere after his 3-year-old daughter, Pippa, died from the affliction. 

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At the beginning of April in 2014, the little girl developed what appeared to be a common cold. The symptoms of sepsis can include a pale complexion, lethargy, fever, and difficulty breathing -- all things that could be mistaken for other illnesses. Days later, after she failed to recover, she was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. Then, shortly after that, she passed away.

"What people don't know about sepsis is the speed and how quickly it changes a life," Howarth said in an interview with Huffington Post UK. "Pippa went in at 7 p.m. and she died by 4 a.m. That's how quickly it takes a life." 

After the little girl was put on antibiotics in the hospital, her doctors required that she stay overnight. "I was there at 10 p.m. and she was wired up to drips, but still demanding pink drinks and a story," Howarth said. "It got to 3 a.m. and I thought she wasn't right. She was talking, but it was nonsense and stopped making sense. I got the nurse to come in. They checked on her and there was no mention of sepsis, then off they went."

Pippa passed away almost suddenly. "I was holding her hand when she stopped breathing. That was it," her father told HuffPost

It is because of the surprising nature of his daughter's passing that Peter Howarth has spoken out. In an effort to warn people about the dangers of sepsis, he is encouraging parents everywhere to take matters into their own hands. "You can't always spot the symptoms. I don't know if we ever could have stopped it, unless we said: 'Could it be sepsis?'"

While sepsis is still a relatively rare condition, reports say that if caught early enough, it can be properly treated by doctors and most patients make a full recovery. 

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Peter Howarth's story and message isn't meant to scare us into thinking that every single scrape our child gets is going to turn into something life-threatening. It is, though, meant to be a warning about how fragile our children can be and how important it is to pay attention to those crucial warning signs before it's too late. 

"It may not have changed the outcome with us," Howarth said. "We might have been unlucky, but maybe -- if someone had asked -- just maybe, we'd still have her."

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