Boy, 10, left fighting for life with rare pneumonia ‘triggered by pet hamster Tango’


A TEN-year-old boy was left fighting for his life after contracting a rare form of pneumonia – from his sister’s hamster.

Jack Sage had been cuddling the brown and white pet, called Tango, but days later he came out in a rash and was struggling to breathe.

Jack Sage was left fighting for his life after contracting a rare form of pneumonia from his sister's pet hamster

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Jack Sage was left fighting for his life after contracting a rare form of pneumonia from his sister’s pet hamsterCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
Jack's 12-year-old sister Evie with her pet hamster Tango

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Jack’s 12-year-old sister Evie with her pet hamster TangoCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

The schoolboy, from Oundle, Northamptonshire, was rushed to hospital where doctors initially thought he could be suffering from leukaemia.

They carried out a series of tests, but medics eventually ruled it out.

He spent another 60 nights in hospital before a biopsy revealed he had eosinophilic pneumonia.

The likeliest cause of Jack’s condition was an allergic reaction to Tango who belongs to his 12-year-old sister Evie, the family were told.

‘HORRENDOUS TIME’

His schoolteacher mum Suzie, 52, said: “It was a horrendous time.

“Not knowing what was going on over such a long period was incredibly difficult.

“Luckily doctors ruled leukaemia out and finally diagnosed an extremely rare condition called eosinophilic pneumonia which is treated with super strong steroids.

“We’ve been told it could have been caused by his sister’s hamster Tango which caused huge upset because his sister Evie adored him.

Jack Sage bouncing on a mini trampoline to raise money for Addenbrooke's Hospital

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Jack Sage bouncing on a mini trampoline to raise money for Addenbrooke’s HospitalCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
The family's pet hamster - believed to be responsible for Jack's mysterious illness

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The family’s pet hamster – believed to be responsible for Jack’s mysterious illnessCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

“The timing seemed right but we can’t be sure.

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“The condition is so rare. The only other person who had this kind of reaction was a fireman from 9/11 who had breathed in dust.”

Jack has struggled with respiratory problems for the last two years but last October his condition worsened and he was admitted to hospital.

The only other person who had this kind of reaction was a fireman from 9/11 who had breathed in dust

Suzie SageJack’s mum

He spent Christmas in hospital and to cheer up his sister Evie who was missing her brother, his parents gave her Tango as a present.

In the New Year, Jack returned to the family home after making a full recovery.

But just days after playing with Tango, Jack’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he was rushed back to hospital.

Jack pictured in hospital before getting a diagnosis for his unusual illness

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Jack pictured in hospital before getting a diagnosis for his unusual illnessCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

He was treated at Peterborough City Hospital before being referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

He underwent a series of tests, including two bronchoscopies to take tissue samples from his lungs which confirmed pneumonia.

Suzie, who is married to David, 53, also a teacher, added: “We were stunned to find out that his condition could have been caused by Tango.

“We’ve had hamsters before and Jack has suffered from breathing problems but we never connected the two.

“When he was in hospital over Christmas we bought Evie Tango from a rescue centre because her old hamster had passed away and she was missing Jack.

What is eosinophilic pneumonia?

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that participates in the immune response of the lung.

The number of eosinophils increases during many inflammatory and allergic reactions, including asthma, which frequently accompanies certain types of eosinophilic pneumonia.

Eosinophilic pneumonia differs from typical pneumonias in that there is no suggestion that the tiny air sacs of the lungs are infected by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

However, these sacs – and often the airways – do fill with eosinophils.

Even the blood vessel walls may be invaded by eosinophils, and the narrowed airways may become plugged with an accumulation of mucus if asthma develops.

The exact cause is not well understood, but it may be a type of allergic reaction.

Often it is not possible to identify the substance that is causing the allergic reaction.

However, there are some known causes of eosinophilic pneumonia, including:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Certain drugs, for example, penicillin
  • Chemical fumes
  • Fungi
  • Parasites
  • Systemic disorders

Symptoms may be mild or life threatening, and acute or chronic.

In acute cases, it progresses quickly and may cause fever, chest pain worsened by deep breathing, shortness of breath, cough, and a general feeling of illness.

The level of oxygen in the blood can decrease severely, and acute eosinophilic pneumonia can progress to acute respiratory failure in a few hours or days if not treated.

Source: MSD Manuals

“It was a very short time after Jack came home and had played with Tango that he started feeling unwell again.

“As soon as we found out Tango was probably the cause we put it in a separate room while we rehomed it.”

Jack finally came out of hospital on August 23, two days before his birthday.

He is still recovering at home but hopes to return to Oundle Church of England Primary School before half-term.

To thank medical staff who cared for him, Jack is hoping to raise £1,350 to buy toys and treats for children being treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Jack Sage, with pet dog Ted, is now fundraising to say thank you to the NHS staff who saved him

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Jack Sage, with pet dog Ted, is now fundraising to say thank you to the NHS staff who saved himCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

Jack said: “I feel bad that I can’t play with Tango any more. I remember having a painful rash and having trouble breathing.

“It was pretty scary but I’m glad it’s all over. I miss hamsters but we’ve got some fish now.”

Suzie added: “He’s been so positive the whole time, just taking one day at a time and setting himself little targets.

“He has been so strong and has given us the strength to get through it. It’s made us so close as a family.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to his school and all the NHS staff who have helped him.

“The doctors and nurses have been incredible and we’re so grateful.”

Tango has now gone to live with a nurse from Peterborough Hospital who treated Jack called Danielle.

To help him hit his fundraising target, visit his JustGiving page.

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