If you ask 3-year-old Liam Young what happened to his fingers and toes, he’ll tell you, “A shark bit them off!”
“It sounds a lot better of a story than what actually did happen to him,” says Liam’s father, Chris.
In October 2015, Liam came down with a fever and was nauseated and vomiting. Chris and his wife, Angela, thought it was just the flu. But when Liam’s symptoms seemed to worsen a few days later, they took their son to the local emergency department.
“The doctor said, ‘All I can tell you is your son’s very, very sick. We need to get him to Iowa City, and the helicopter’s on their way up to get him,’” remembers Chris.
While Chris waited with Liam for the helicopter to arrive, Angela dropped off Liam’s siblings at her mom’s house and drove straight to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. When Angela arrived, she called Chris with an update.
“She said that after he got there, there were some complications. He ended up coding [going into cardiac arrest] and they had to resuscitate him,” says Chris. “I collapsed in the parking garage.”
Liam’s care team determined he had septicemia, a life-threatening blood infection that occurs when a bacterial infection in a different part of the body enters the bloodstream.
Dangerous toxins were being carried through Liam’s bloodstream to his vital organs. He was immediately admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
“The first thing the doctors told us when we got to the PICU, after they got him stable, was that his liver was shut down, his kidneys were shut down, and they were going to start him on continuous dialysis,” remembers Chris.
After a few weeks in the PICU, Liam was moved to the burn treatment center for wound care to address his blistered and scarred skin.
“The human body is just amazing the way it works,” says Chris. “It created clotting in his fingers and toes, making sure his main organs kept getting blood flow to them.”
The lack of circulation in Liam’s fingers and toes led to amputation. There is still exposed bone and tendons in Liam’s feet, so he comes back to UI Children’s Hospital every two weeks to monitor his healing. He has a walker to help him balance, but he prefers to run alongside his siblings.
Liam’s happy-go-lucky attitude has impressed his family and care team.
“He’s stayed positive and always had a big smile,” says Chris. “Nurses would come in and give him a shot, and he would absolutely hate it. But once they were done, as they would go to leave, he’d say ‘Thank you for the shot!’”
Chris and Angela are thankful for the doctors and nurses who helped get Liam to where he is today.
“You can tell they love their patients as their own,” says Chris. “When my sister was younger, she came here for cancer treatment. When I told her and my mom about Liam first getting sick, they said, ‘He’s in the best hands in the country.'”