Guest opinion: Mom brings awareness to sepsis threat

My name is Shawna Manzanares. With school just around the corner, and September being the official month for “Sepsis Awareness,” I would like to bring a bit of knowledge and awareness to the community about sepsis and what devastation it can and does cause. I am not a spokesperson of any sort, I am not a medical professional, I am simply a grieving mother of a beautiful, innocent child that lost her life to a bacterial infection that eventually led to sepsis. I feel like it is my duty and responsibility, for my daughter’s sake, to bring some kind of knowledge and awareness to the very community that my child lived and thrived in. What started off as cold symptoms, eventually led to the loss of my child’s life.

My daughter (Shaliah Raelynn Guodace, 10 years old), was born in 2005, and raised here in Alamosa, where she attended school and had the biggest, brightest impact on everyone she came in contact with. Shaliah was born with a severe heart condition, which was corrected during infancy, and maintained throughout her life, which she lived very healthy and happy, with no complications. Shaliah loved nature, animals were the light of her life, and she adored her small family. She had a special and unique fascination with dragonflies, and her biggest goal in life was to save stray, homeless animals. She was the most beautiful spirited little girl, with what we considered an “old soul.” She took nothing for granted and appreciated the most simple things in life. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to help someone out, and often times, she donated her clothes, toys, and allowance to those less fortunate.  There is not enough time to describe what a beautiful, amazing, and unique little girl she was.

Maybe, just maybe, by educating and bringing awareness to parents about sepsis, the warning signs, symptoms, and what sepsis can lead to, then it is possible to save a life. If one life can be spared, I would feel like all my efforts and attempts of reaching out would have paid off. The loss of my daughter will not be in vain. I am taking every possible opportunity to expose the horrendous effects of what sepsis can do to a young, growing body.

Symptoms are typical flu symptoms; fever, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, lethargic, with a rash/ hives. Those are the symptoms that my daughter displayed the night she became ill. Four hours of these symptoms, and just as I was about to get her up from my bed to take her to the ER, I told her I loved her and that we were going to get her to the doctor, she replied “I love you too mommy” and no more than 10 seconds later, she seized and lost consciousness. That was the last conversation I would ever have with my baby. She was rushed via ambulance to SLVRMC, where they tried to stabilize her, but had a very hard time because they did not know what was wrong with her. All I could tell the medical staff was that she was experiencing flu symptoms the night prior to this incident. After she was placed on life support, a helicopter from Children’s Hospital in Denver was dispatched to pick her up. Upon arriving in Denver, we were met by a specialist in the Intensive Care Unit, with information that would take the breath out of any parent with a child in that situation. She told us that they were in the process of running tests and that cultures were taken so that they could be grown. The doctor was still unsure of what was wrong with my child but whatever it was, was bad, real bad. All of Shaliah’s vital functions were shutting down, and she was put on the max amount of medicines and machines to assists with keeping her alive. Within 24 hours, she was on life support, dialysis, and countless meds just to keep her heart pumping. She was quickly losing perfusion of blood to all her extremities, and by day 2, she was in a coma-state, and her physical appearance was non-recognizable. The medical staff at Children’s Hospital did all that they could with the resources that were available, and the knowledge that was acquired about her condition.

According to the cultures that had grown within a 72- hour period, Shaliah had contracted a bacterial infection by the name of MSSA, which is a form of staff infection, and from my understanding, related to meningitis. To this day we are still not sure how she came in contact with this infection, or if, in fact, this infection was actually MSSA, but we do know that she was being a typical 10-year-old little girl, doing 10-year-old little girl things when she became infected. The damage that had been done by this time was irreversible. Children’s Hospital was no longer able to help my daughter. The devastation that the infection had caused was due to her body becoming septic. Sepsis had caused all her vital functions to quickly seize, and due to the lack of blood flow, she would eventually lose 95 percent of her skin. She was referred to a skin care specialist in Sacramento, California, at Shriners Hospital. There she could continue to receive care from a team of specialists for the skin condition that was becoming a serious issue. It was advised by the team caring for my daughter, to have her arms and legs amputated. With her body working so hard to keep her vital organs going, the amputation was necessary to keep her body from working too hard to push blood to parts of her body that had already been damaged beyond recovery or repair. Without going too far into detail, I will tell you that, within the two weeks that my daughter was in the hospital, whatever it was that caused her to become septic, had also caused her to lose both arms, both legs, the majority of muscle and tissue over her body, including her face, and 95 percent of her skin.

I had no clue about sepsis. I had no idea of the complete destruction and devastation that it can cause. There is no way to prepare a parent for what I had experienced.  Having to witness my child go through this painful and traumatic experience made me feel so helpless. According to all the doctors that had treated my daughter, there was nothing that I could have done different as a parent, to prevent, or treat whatever my daughter had contracted. There was not much education available at all regarding the specific infection. The last known case of a child with something similar to what Shaliah had, did not live past day  2. From the initial symptoms, all the way to the day we decided as a family, not to prolong her pain and suffering, and have her taken off life support, she had fought the most toughest fight for her life for two whole weeks.

My daughter’s life was lost to something that we could not see, hear, smell or touch.  There is still a lot that is not known about the very infection that caused my daughter to become septic, but we do know the symptoms, and we are aware of the effect sepsis has on a person, therefor, with what little we do know, I feel obligated to share that information with the world. If sepsis is caught within a certain timeframe, it can be treated before it becomes fatal.  I just want to let parents know that something this deadly and destructive does exist and it can happen to anybody at any time. Vaccinations are very important, hopefully something can be learned from this tragedy and lives can be saved.