Signs and symptoms of scarlet fever: Australian mother’s son dies eight days after she was told she was melodramatic

In eight days, Queensland mother Jade saw nine different doctors to help her ailing toddler.

When an ugly red rash covered three-year-old Jesse’s body, Jade’s concerns were repeatedly brushed aside.

Tragically, Jesse died in hospital just over a week after his first visit to the emergency room from complications from a common bacterial illness that is usually treated with antibiotics.

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“They (the medical staff) kept telling me, ‘Sick kids don’t smile,'” Jade tells 7Life.

“But Jesse was always a happy boy … he smiled for half an hour before he died.”

Jesse was just three years old when he died. Recognition: delivered

It’s been 12 years since Jesse passed away, but each anniversary of his death is a haunting reminder for Jade.

“I don’t want compensation, I don’t want anything from Jesse’s death,” she explains.

“But I want others to know that they should never doubt themselves, trust themselves and keep pushing for answers.”

Jesse’s story

Jade remembers the first moment she spotted the red rash covering almost every inch of Jesse’s tiny body.

The rash mimicked one her eldest son Zach had a few years ago.

Zach was initially diagnosed with rosacea, but over the days his rash turned into painful blisters.

During a race to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with scarlet fever — a common bacterial infection that usually develops from an untreated strep throat.

However, if neglected, the disease can cause serious complications with vital organs and, in extreme cases, lead to death.

Jade suspected the bright red rash covering Jesse’s body was scarlet fever. Recognition: delivered

As soon as Zach entered the hospital, he was taken away, given antibiotics, and was back to normal within a few days.

And Jade never forgot the stern doctor who scolded her for not bringing her son here sooner.

So when an eerily similar rash appeared on Jesse’s body, Jade wasted no time and rushed him to the emergency room.

This time, however, the mother’s concerns were quickly allayed.

“They basically told me I was uneducated and melodramatic,” Jade recalls.

She constantly expressed her concerns about scarlet fever, but was dismissed with a shrug and called an overly “concerned mother”.

But Jade’s experience with Zach kept running through her mind.

So she picked Jesse up, put him in the car and drove to another nearby hospital.

brushed off

There, Jade claims she encountered the same reaction.

When Jade was told her son had mild symptoms, he was advised that he didn’t need to be in the ER.

Jesse’s death affected everyone in his family, including his two sisters, whom he never got to meet. Recognition: delivered

“They thought it was just some kind of viral infection,” explains Jade.

“They told me to give him small amounts of water and when he was done he could go home.

“They put us in a room and gave us a pitcher of water.”

The mother did just that.

As she sat by his bed and slowly refilled his water, her mind began to race.

Twelve years have passed since Jesse’s death. Recognition: delivered

“When a second hospital told me I was overreacting, I started to believe it,” she explains.

“I thought, ‘Am I overprotective, am I overthinking it?'”

After Jesse finished the water, Jade decided to take her boy home.

On the way, she stopped at McDonald’s at Jesse’s request to get some nuggets.

“I think he ate maybe one… maybe a half and a half before throwing up,” she said.

When they called the hospital, they told Jade it was a positive sign that Jesse was hungry and that she should just go home and watch him.


But his condition did not improve.

He stopped urinating – a sign that distressed Jade.

So she took him back to the ER, where she claims the nurses asked if she just “didn’t see it.”

Jade uses Jesse’s death to raise awareness of Ryan’s rule. Recognition: delivered

Disturbed, Jade went back and forth in various hospitals over the next few days.

“They started pumping him full of liquids – he exploded like a balloon,” says Jade.

“He’s swollen like a Michelin man.

“I remember yelling at them and telling them that if they don’t do anything, my son will die.”

After five days of seeking medical attention in various rural towns and his condition showing no improvement, Jesse was flown to a town hospital almost five hours away.

There Jade and Jesse’s father Byron sat for seven hours anxiously waiting for doctors to run tests on their boy.

“We just waited while they poked around and did their stuff,” says Jade.

“And then we were told it might be something contagious, so we had to put on those clothes to see him.”

Smiling to the end

Dressed in full PPE, it was hard for the parents to see their son hooked up to so many machines.

But cheeky Jesse still found the courage to smile at the sight of his mother and father.

Jade and Byron stayed by his bedside and were kept up to date on Jesse’s condition as doctors ruled out a contagious disease.

But they were still no closer to an answer – despite Jade’s insistent comments about scarlet fever.

Two days after his last hospitalization, the mother stopped by for a quick breakfast before returning to Jesse’s side.

Jesse smiled to the end. Recognition: delivered

“I knew…” she enthuses.

“I started screaming that something was wrong because Jesse was just staring at me not at me like through me, I knew he wasn’t okay.”

Nurses ran in and found that Jesse was in cardiac arrest.

The room quickly filled with over 12 medical staff as Jade was cornered and watched as medics tried to keep her boy breathing.

“The veins in his neck and face were protruding,” the mother recalls, alarmingly.

Then Byron unknowingly walked in and collapsed upon seeing Jesse unconscious.

The parents were immediately escorted out of the room when their son was pronounced dead.

Jesse died on May 3, 2010, just three months after his third birthday.

Ezri (left) and Stella (right) are Jesse’s two younger sisters whom he never got to meet. Recognition: delivered

“A primal sound came out of me,” Jade recalls the moment she heard her little boy died.

Finally fighting back her feelings, she entered Jesse’s silent room and sat on the bed, holding her boy tight.

For three hours, she cuddled, cried and shared memories with her once lively, happy boy.

home without him

Going home without Jesse was hard, but entering her home filled with memories of her boy sent Jade into a dark depression.

“I just fell on the floor and cried,” she says.

“Everything of Jesse was everywhere. I opened the fridge and there were Easter eggs in there…his Easter eggs.

“I only gave him one a day – like giving him all of them would have killed me… if I had known this would have happened to him I would have let him eat them all.”

“All his stuff, I just stared at them and then I had to go to the funeral home and do all these things you never want to do for your kids.”

The next few years were a blur for both Jade and Byron.

Jade thanks her ex-husband Byron for his support in the loss of their son Jesse. Recognition: delivered

The mother can’t thank Byron enough for being her rock, helping her shower, eat and support her family while she was falling apart.

“He’s a great father,” says Jade.

“Everyone always asks how I’m doing, but the truth is that we both lost him that day.”

The two have since gone their separate ways but still share a close bond and spend almost every holiday together and with their new families.

Jade now has two little girls, Ezri and Stella.

“He never met his sisters,” says Jade.

Ryan’s rule

Two years after Jesse’s death, Queensland introduced Ryan’s rule, which allows patients, parents or carers to request a review of a patient’s health if they believe the condition is not improving.

The rule is named after Ryan Saunders, who died in 2007 from an undiagnosed strep infection.

Jesse passed three months after his third birthday. Recognition: delivered

Jade is delighted with the implementation of Ryan’s rule across Queensland, with similar rules being rolled out in other states and territories.

The mother uses her grief and love for Jesse to promote the importance of the parents’ voices.

“Don’t just believe your doctor, if you feel like they’re wrong tell them,” Jade urges.

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James Brien

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