It started with a “purple rash.”
Three-year-old Jenna had always seemed like a perfectly healthy child, but one evening in late August 2015, she fell violently ill. She had a high fever and diarrhea, and she began vomiting. Her mom initially believed the little girl had the flu, but the symptoms got increasingly worse throughout the night.
“Everything was a blur,” Karen Hansford, who hails from Adelaide, Australia, recalled about the night Jenna got sick. The following morning, Karen noticed a purple rash on her child’s stomach and back and knew that Jenna was suffering from an illness much stronger than the flu. She called an ambulance.
When Karen first saw the rash, the thought that her daughter had meningococcal disease crossed her mind — and she was right. The bacterial infection can cause blood vessels to become damaged and can result in red or purple skin rashes.
Although Jenna had been vaccinated against it, the doctors said there were many strains of the disease. She contracted the B strain.
Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that can lead to fatal diseases, such as meningitis or a blood infection. For Jenna, the infection had already gotten into her arms. She spent weeks in intensive care as doctors tried to save her limbs.
After 30 operations, doctors at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Australia, were forced to amputate Jenna’s right arm just below the elbow, as well as the fingers and thumb on her left arm. Her leg muscles and tendons were damaged, but doctors (thankfully) didn’t have to amputate them.
Jenna is back at home, but she’ll have to undergo therapy and surgeries for the rest of her life, as the infection has affected the growth of her limbs.
And now, the young girl asks her mother a devastating question, “Mom, why don’t I have a hand? Why don’t I have fingers?”
Speaking to the Advertiser, her mother said: “I just say to her she got really, really sick, so when her friends ask her she tells them she got really, really sick and had to go to hospital.”
Karen Hansford recalled, “At the time, we couldn’t imagine that she would have a happy life with no fingers and hands — we couldn’t see how she would adapt and change so well.” Now she’s just grateful her daughter is alive.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Jenna and her family, to fund prosthetics.
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