Sara Hebard is going through the unimaginable pain of dealing with the death of her 8-year-old son, Liam. But, despite her grief, she shared her story to warn other parents to keep a close eye on their children—even if they get what seems to be a minor injury.
“I want to keep his legacy and the awareness alive,” Hebard wrote in an email to Simplemost. “I want to push how serious this bacteria/infection is and to hold your babies tight and treat every day as your last cause [sic] nothing is promised.”
A Routine Bike Accident
Hebard told People magazine that Liam’s infection was the result of a painful, but seemingly minor, bicycle accident. On Jan. 13, Liam was riding his bike outside his Oregon home when he accidentally crashed it into the dirt. During the crash, the bike’s handlebars sliced open one of his thighs. The family rushed him to the hospital, and doctors put seven stitches in his leg and sent him home without antibiotics.
But Hebard knew something wasn’t right when her son kept having pain around the wound area. She gave him over-the-counter pain relievers to try to help, but eventually, they weren’t enough. After taking a look at what they thought was his healing wound, Hebard and her husband, Scott Hinkle, were horrified to discover his entire thigh and groin area was severely discolored.
“My husband instantly freaked,” Hebard told People. “He immediately said Liam had gangrene and he needed to go to the emergency room—and straight to the emergency room we went.”
An Unexpected Diagnosis
Doctors worked quickly to remove the infected area surrounding the original wound. However, they decided to airlift the second grader to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Liam’s pain continued to worsen and doctors discovered he had developed necrotizing fasciitis.
This rare, flesh-eating bacteria got into Liam’s system after the dirt he crashed his bike into made its way into his cut. According to the CDC, a variety of bacteria can cause this potentially fatal condition, including the group A strep bacteria. The CDC also said between 600 and 1,200 cases occur each year in the U.S. Necrotizing fasciitis can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Unfortunately for Liam, the disease spread quickly, destroying skin and muscles all the way from his ankle to his armpit.
“The pain was so bad that he was screaming,” Hebard said. “It’s horrific. It is a horrific torture, that’s what it is. The last things I got to hear from my son was him screaming because it hurt so bad.”
Eventually, Liam had to be put on life support and sedation, and on Jan. 21 he died from the infection.
What Are The Symptoms Of Necrotizing Fasciitis?
Hebard wants other parents to be on the lookout for the telltale symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis, including:
- area surrounding cut or injury is more painful than expected
Liam’s parents started a GoFundMe to raise money for medical bills and spread awareness about this rare infection that claimed their son’s life. In about two weeks, the campaign had raised more than $43,000 toward a $100,000 goal.
As Hebard mourns the tragic loss of her son, she hopes her family’s story will protect others.
“I just want to be my son’s voice, and hopefully save someone else from what he/we had to go through,” she told Simplemost.