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vivienne murphy

Parents of girl who died of Strep A 'begging' parents and doctors to be vigilant about illness

Vivienne Murphy died in March 2019 after contracting the illness.

THE PARENTS OF a 10-year-old girl who died following a Strep A infection have said they want her story to save other children.

Vivienne Murphy from Millstreet in County Cork, died on 1 March 2019, two weeks after she had complained about a sore throat.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly after she started showing symptoms, but she was not immediately diagnosed with Strep A and later had to be transferred to Temple Street in Dublin because she could not be treated in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme, Vivienne’s parents Lilly and Dermot recalled that she was out of sorts on Valentine’s Day, and developed a rash and high temperature in the evening.

They called the local out-of-hours GP service and the doctor who looked at the rash and “didn’t make a whole pile of it”.

Lilly and Dermot were advised to keep giving her Calpol and Nurofen, but when she did not improve they went back to another doctor.

Lilly said three different doctors told them that Vivienne’s illness was viral, but “we said it can’t be, there must be something else, it’s been going on for days”.

Vivienne was struggling to provide a urine sample and couldn’t walk, Lilly recalled.

When Vivienne was able to provide a small sample, it did not return anything concerning.

Dermot said: “The doctor came back and said, ‘it’s okay’. I said, ‘it can’t be okay.’”

Lilly said: “We really felt like we were being overprotective parents.”

Cork University Hospital

Vivienne’s condition continued to worsen over the next five days. “She couldn’t sleep for days,” Lilly said.

Dermot took her to CUH. “We knew our gut feeling was right, then,” he said.

In CUH, nurse noticed a small black mark on the young girl’s leg, prompting the medical team to carry out a blood test.

“We could see the mark was getting bigger,” Lilly recalled. “We [were told] the black mark meant that Vivienne had sepsis and was going into shock.”

Vivienne was put under anaesthetic at this point.

She said she urged the team to “please operate”, and were prepared for Vivienne’s leg to be amputated to save her life, but were told that procedure could not be carried out in CUH because CUH does not have a paediatric intensive-care unit which would have cared for Vivienne after the operation.

Becoming emotional, Lilly said they asked several times for an amputation to be done, but they were told: “No, the decision is made, she’s going to Temple Street.

Dermot said: “There was no discussion with us … we had asked and begged them to operate.”

Lilly said “it doesn’t make sense” that a large hospital like CUH does not have such facilities.

Temple Street

Vivienne had to be transferred to Temple Street children’s hospital in Dublin, which took “ages”, Lilly said. She and Dermot had to go to Dublin by car, with their daughter driven in a specialist ambulance.

She was taken into surgery where 17% of her body was cut away, her father said. “I thought when we were in Cork we would probably have got away with 1%, the black mark, cut it out there.”

“17% is burned into my brain.”

The black mark on Vivienne’s leg started out as Strep A, which led to sepsis, then shock, then necrotising fasciitis, which is sometimes called the “flesh-eating disease”.

The next day, Vivienne went into cardiac arrest.

Dermot recalled: “At one stage he turned to Lilly and me, and said: ‘Parents, scream at your daughter, call her back, call her back! Bring her back!’”

“And Lilly started screaming, please come back to us, please come back to us, and it went back a long time, and he said ‘call her – she will know your voice’.”

“And she did come back to us. And we thought wow – we have her.”

But Vivienne suffered brain damage due to the cardiac arrest, and after an MRI scan, Lilly and Dermot were informed she was brain dead.

Lilly said they decided to turn off life support to preserve their daughter’s dignity, but the decision was like a “torture chamber”.

“There was bad news every day,” he said. “One day we’re begging her to stay alive, the next day we’re begging her to die.”

Lilly added: “We were told that because of everything she’d been through, she would slip away quietly and quickly, but that didn’t happen.”

“It was the longest night of our lives.”


Vivienne died on 1 March 2019.

Dublin City Coroner Dr Cróna Gallagher told This Week that she intends to write to the HSE, the Department of Health and the Irish College of General Practitioners to bring the case to their attention.

She said she will highlight the lack of a paediatric intensive care unit in CUH.

Dermot said: “I want the people to know how dangerous Strep A is.”

“When we found out what it was and how curable it was, you know … we just can’t swallow the bitter pill.”

Antibiotics would have cured Vivienne easily, he said.

Lilly added: “If your child has a fever or a rash, I mean, be vigilant. These can things can change so quickly.

“We’re just begging and pleading that parents look out for these things … don’t ever think that you’re being an overreacting parent, because you’re not.”

Dermot said it was very difficult for him and Lilly to recall the timeline of Vivienne’s death “but if this saves one child … then we sleep better”.

“Something good has to come of [this],” he said.

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