Keen young sports woman grounded with rheumatic fever

Staying in bed is not something 9 year old Miya Pirini is at all that keen on, but she has little choice as she recovers from the serious illness, rheumatic fever.

A sore throat in February had her mum, Nicky Rogers-Pirini, take her to the doctor for a check-up.

“Miya had mouth ulcers and a really sore throat so I took her to the local GP”, remembers Nicky.

“Miya was on a course of antibiotics for 10 days, which she completed, and actually the swab came back negative for strep throat”.

But Miya didn’t bounce back to her normal active self.  At first she started complaining of a sore hip and achy joints, not every day but it was really unusual.

A keen swimmer all year round and playing tennis over the summer, Miya would come home from school and fall asleep on the couch.

“Miya is not one to normally complain but every few days she was saying ‘oh my knees are sore’, ‘my elbows are sore’.  I just brushed it off thinking they were growing pains”.

Then Miya started to develop what she called a ‘swiggly spider web’ rash.

“The rash appeared about 2½ weeks ago and on the morning of 23 April she found it difficult to walk so I took her back to the medical centre and the nurse who saw her said she needed to see a doctor straight away.

“Hearing a heart murmur the doctor said we needed to get her over to Whangarei Hospital urgently.

“They monitored Miya for a couple of hours and then a decision was made to helicopter her to Starship Hospital in Auckland”.

Diagnosed with rheumatic fever, Miya spent five days in Starship Hospital and returned to Whangarei Hospital on strict bedrest.

“If Miya wants to go to the bathroom, the playroom, shower, anywhere, she has to go in a wheelchair so that she doesn’t put any strain on her heart”

“I was allowed to go out for two hours last night”, said Miya, her eyes lighting up.  “We went to basketball which was a real treat”.

The illness has had an effect on the whole family.  One of five girls, with the youngest one still being breastfed at night, Nicky and her husband have been playing tag team to make sure everyone can still be connected.

“We have been so lucky to have such good family and friends but it has been very worrying and exhausting.  My girl has been so sick but she is on the mend slowly”.

Doctors will decide when Miya can go home and she will be on strict bedrest for quite some time yet.  She has had to face up to not being able to play netball this season, which has crushed the very active, sporty young woman.

“I will be able to gradually go back to school and hopefully I will recover enough to return to some form of sport later on down the track”, Miya said wistfully.

“Last week Miya started her first monthly injection of penicillin which, will continue until she is 21.

“I knew that a sore throat could break hearts but I didn’t know about the other signs and symptoms of rheumatic fever.  My tip to all parents is to make sure you are informed and if your child has a sore throat make sure you get it swabbed”.

Free sore throat swabbing

Dargaville Medical Centre are offering a free throat swabbing programme for children and young people 4 -19 years of age and for other members of their whanau aged 3 – 35 years.

Background Information

Rheumatic fever is one of the complications associated with strep throat. The condition usually appears in children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Rheumatic fever is a serious illness that can start after a sore throat (a Group A streptococcal or “strep” infection). A few weeks after the ‘strep’ throat your child may develop sore or swollen joints (knees, elbows, ankles and wrists), a skin rash, a fever, stomach pain and/or jerky movements.

The first episode of rheumatic fever can also cause permanent damage to the heart valves – this is called rheumatic heart disease.

If the heart valves have been damaged and the child has rheumatic heart disease, they may also experience breathlessness and tiredness.

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