Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. For all its joys, however, it also comes with many fears and worries.
As a parent, you are constantly concerned about your child’s health and well-being. Of course, one of the biggest fears any parent has is losing their child. Deborah Carr, chair of the sociology department at Boston University, says the death of a child is the single worst stressor a person can go through.
“Parents and fathers specifically feel responsible for the child’s well-being,” she explained. “So when they lose a child, they’re not just losing a person they loved. They’re also losing the years of promise they had looked forward to.” 
One family in Ontario, Canada, is going through this experience. They believe, however, that the tragic loss of their young daughter could have been prevented. Now they are speaking out about it.
Toddler Dies in Her Sleep: Sophia’s Story
Nine months ago mother Arzo Wahab and her two-year-old daughter Sophia became ill. Wahab got better, but her daughter did not. She developed a fever, was lethargic, throwing up, and had discolored eyes.
Wahab took little Sophia to the hospital, where doctors told her she was fine. Three days later, the little girl died in her sleep.
When Sophia’s fever spiked, her parents took her to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where they waited for seven hours to see a doctor. After learning it would be another six hours, they left.
No Signs of Improvement
The following morning they instead took her to a walk-in clinic near their home. The doctor there said Sophia needed immediate medical attention, so her parents took her to the emergency room at Southlake Regional Health Center in Newmarket, Ontario.
Wahab and her husband told the resident doctor there everything. That Sophia had had a fever for ten days, and that she was puking green. This is typically a sign of infection.
“I asked them, since she’s had a fever for 10 days now, could you please give her some antibiotics or do some blood work?” said Wahab .
Initially, the doctor agreed. After the supervising doctor said no, however, she changed her mind. The doctor told the parents that likely Sophia had one viral infection and now has another.
“They just keep telling me she has the flu,” said Wahab. “We asked her so many times to do tests but we kept getting brushed off. I told the doctor that her eyes don’t look the same – this is my kid, I knew she wasn’t well.” 
According to Wahab, the doctor told them all of this without ever running any actual tests. Medical documents from the hospital said the little girl had a heart rate of 164 beats per minute and a temperature of 38.4 degrees.
The documents also said Sophia was discharged from the hospital in under two hours. Doctors told the parents to keep her hydrated, and to give her Tylenol morning and night. The notes said she was experiencing gastroenteritis.
The doctors told the family to return to the hospital in four days if Sophia didn’t show signs of improvement. She died three days later.
“She started making these choking noises in the middle of the night,” Wahab said. “My husband woke up and called the police. Officers did CPR on her and took her to the hospital but they couldn’t find a heartbeat.” 
Sepsis: A Quick Killer
According to the coroner, Sophia died of a Strep A infection that turned septic, a bile infection, and pneumonia.
Strep A is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. It can lead to many different infections, that range from mild illness to serious and deadly diseases. Scarlet fever, strep throat, necrotizing fasciitis, or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome are all caused by Strep A bacteria .
Sepsis is when the body has an extreme reaction to an infection. It occurs when an infection you already have triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Without prompt medical attention, sepsis can very quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
Signs or symptoms of sepsis include:
- High heart rate or low blood pressure
- Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
- Confusion or disorientation
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy or sweaty skin 
If you or a loved one has an infection that is not getting better, or is getting worse, you should seek medical attention immediately.
“Her Death Has Gone Unjustified”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) are now investigating the circumstances surrounding Sophia’s death. Wahab feels that health care system failed her family, and that if proper tests had been done, her daughter would still be alive.
“I asked them so many times to do tests,” she said. “I am just so angry with the health-care system. We kept being told by the doctors she was fine and we believed them.” 
The family has hired a lawyer and is in the process of launching legal action against the Southlake Regional Health Center. Despite how difficult it is, Wahab is speaking out about what happened to her daughter. She wants to encourage parents to feel more confident advocating for their children at hospitals.
Wahab does not want any other parents to have to go through what she and her husband have experienced. She believes saving even one child’s life will be worth her pain and effort.
“This is something that shouldn’t have happened,” Wahab said. “It’s not like we live in a third world country where we can’t trust our health-care system – our doctors are properly educated.” 
Wahab, who is now pregnant again, has started a petition calling on the Ministry of Health “to bring change” to the health care system. The petition now has over 6700 signatures.
None of this, however, will bring Sophia back. Wahab describes her little girl as “an angel taken too soon”, and says she and her husband will never recover from the pain of losing a child.
She says losing a child is like losing a part of yourself. Nothing is ever the same again.
- ‘What the Loss of a Child Does to Parents, Psychologically and Biologically’ Fatherly Joshua A. Krisch. Published February 23, 2021
- ‘Toddler dies in her sleep after parents are told by doctor she only has the flu’ CTV News Toronto Sean Davidson. Published September 21, 2020
- ‘Diseases Caused by Group A Strep’ CDC
- ‘What is sepsis?’ CDC