It was mothers day when 7-year-old Ellen Cary started to run a fever. Her parents promptly took her to local walk-in clinic where they received some unwelcoming news.
Ellen was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and given an antibiotic to treat it. When the symptoms did not go away, Ellen was taken back to the clinic and given a different medication. But when her symptoms got worse, she was rushed back to the clinic for the third time in the same week!
The doctor finally recommended that Ellen be hospitalized for dehydration, and the news only got worse from there.
The hospital physicians diagnosed Ellen with mononucleosis, walking pneumonia and a urinary tract infection caused by her intense dehydration. While still in the hospital, the little girl started to vomit. She began saying things that did not make sense, and her parents began to worry even more.
Ellen was immediately flown to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and was again re-diagnosed. Ellen had hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a rare disease in which the body makes too many activated immune cells (macrophages and lymphocytes). This life threatening condition was then made even worse.
The 7-year-old was having acute liver failure and on May 23 the doctors diagnosed Ellen with a tick-borne disease called ehrlichiosis. According to MayoClinic:
Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks that causes flu-like symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ehrlichiosis range from mild body aches to severe fever and usually appear within a week or two of a tick bite.
This, the doctors say, caused Ellen’s HLH. Tragically, little 7-year-old Ellen Cary died that afternoon.
Now, her parents are telling Ellen’s story to educate people on the dangers that you can’t see. The parents never want anyone to be forced to endure the pain they are having to deal with.
Losing his daughter was “the worst thing you could ever imagine,” said Eric Cary, Ellen’s father. “Ellen, she was one of a kind,” said Eric. After cutting her hair off for Locks of Love, Ellen’s father remembers her excitement to help others.
“She came home and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to do it for the next five years’. She wasn’t stingy. She wasn’t selfish. She’d do anything you’d ask her to do. She never complained about anything. She was one in a million, I guess.”
The Cary’s want everyone to be aware of the serious dangers caused by tick bites. You can help in preventing the possibility of a bite by using repellent and checking the body after being outdoors.
Beyond that though, the Cary’s implore that if you or your child experiences any flu-like symptoms that have the possibility of being cause by a tick bite, seek medical attention!
Share this tragic story and help spread much-needed awareness!