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Children's health

23rd Apr 2024

‘If we knew then what we know now’ – Parents of Cork girl who died of sepsis urge people to be vigilant

Anna Martin


In March 2019, 10-year-old Vivienne Murphy passed away from sepsis

Vivienne, who was from Cork, had initially complained of a sore throat, high fever and rash.

She was diagnosed with a viral infection; however she had strep A, which is a throat infection.

Two weeks later Vivienne developed sepsis and died.

Now her parents are urging others, in particular parents, to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of sepsis themselves.

Speaking to the HSE, the parents of the 10-year-old said: “When Vivienne first became unwell and continued to deteriorate, we were told by multiple doctors that she had a viral infection, but it was, in fact, Strep A she was suffering from.

“From there, Vivienne deteriorated very quickly and developed sepsis, which caused her to become extremely unwell. Two weeks after Vivienne had become unwell, she died.

“We are urging parents to make themselves familiar with the signs and symptoms of sepsis. If you have a feeling that something is not right always seek medical attention.”

The continued: “But most of all, trust your instincts. If you feel your child is suffering from something more than a virus, ask the question, ‘Could it be sepsis? If we only knew then what we know now, Vivienne would be alive.

“If our message can help to save even one child, then sharing our experience, which is extremely hard to do, would have been worth it.”

As it’s paediatric sepsis awareness week, parents of infants and children are invited to attend a HSE webinar which will highlight the signs and symptoms of sepsis in children.

While sepsis can affect anyone with an infection, young children are at an increased risk of contracting the potentially deadly infection.

The symptoms of sepsis can often be mistaken for something else, and symptoms in children can be different than those in adults.

The HSE advises parents to be vigilant, and if their child has an infection and they are not getting better, to ask, “Could it be Sepsis?”

The signs and symptoms of sepsis in children are:

  • Very fast breathing
  • Fits or convulsions
  • Mottled skin (irregular colour) bluish or pale
  • A rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Unusually sleepy and difficult to wake
  • Unusually cold when you touch them
  • Has had no pee for more than 12 hours

If a child is under 5 years old, it’s important to seek help if they are:

  • Not feeding
  • Vomiting repeatedly 
  • Dry when you change them, and they have not had a wet nappy for the last 12 hours

Recently published research has shown a high awareness of sepsis among the public but a low knowledge of the signs and symptoms to be familiar with.

Research Findings:

  • 39% of adults say they’re not very aware or not aware at all of the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
  • Fever is the symptom most associated with sepsis. However, it’s also easy to confuse this symptom with other conditions.
  • 51% of adults would not be confident in dealing with someone they suspect of having sepsis.
  • Symptoms of sepsis are easy to dismiss, miss or mistake for something else.