A 7-year-old boy in Flint, Michigan, lost both of his legs after suffering what seemed like simple “body aches” last Christmas. His mother is speaking out on what happened to her son to warn parents against ignoring their child’s needs when feeling sick.

Last Christmas, Kaden started complaining to his mom, Michele Stevenson, about some pain in his leg. But the latter brushed it off, thinking it was just the flu. Three days later, Kaden got rushed to the hospital suffering from organ failure.

“He ended up having like, some pain in his leg. I’m thinking, ‘Okay body aches, so maybe he has the flu.’ Turned out he ended up having the flu plus strep A, but strep A got into his bloodstream, which caused him to get the toxic shock,” Stevenson told local TV station WNEM this week.

Doctors at a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids diagnosed Kaden with Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS), a rare but serious infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. He underwent treatments to save his legs for weeks, but it was too late.

“He ended up having to get above-the-knee amputation on his right leg and a below-the-knee amputation on his left leg,” Stevenson added.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), a step A infection commonly manifests as flu-like symptoms, including high fever, swollen glands and body aches. Other symptoms include sore throat, scabs and sores, pain and swelling, nausea and vomiting and a rough rash.

A strep A infection can turn into STSS once the bacteria spread into deep tissues and the bloodstream. When this happens, the patient can quickly suffer from low blood pressure, multiple organ failure and even death, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Nicholas Haddad said STSS is very rare and can be deadly when left untreated. “Probably around 50 cases of toxic streptococcal shock syndrome per million people,” he said before noting that the bacteria can enter the blood through open wounds.

Stevenson wants her son’s case to serve as a reminder for other parents to listen to their children and seek professional help right away because what may seem like a simple illness could be a deadly strep disease.

“Listen to your kids. If you think they’re sick, just pay attention. Don’t self-diagnose, take them to the hospital. Let the doctors tell you that they don’t have strep,” she said.

children running
Image REUTERS/Rick Wilking