A two-year old was given a double leg amputation and had seven of his fingers removed after doctors failed to spot the warning signs of toxic shock syndrome.

After burning himself in an accident at home Reuben Harvey Smith was taken to Ipswich Hospital, but then was forced to return to casualty two days later with a fever and sore throat. Doctors wrongly diagnosed him with tonsillitis.

But Reuben was left fighting for his life, as he was suffering from toxic shock syndrome – the tell-tale signs of which could have been picked up far earlier, Sky News reported.

His mother Lou Harvey Smith told the news channel at one point the family thought they were going to lose the little boy.

Eventually, a consultant came to her and said Reuben required surgery.

"The consultant had tears in her eyes when she told me he would have to undergo an amputation," Smith was quoted as saying.

Reuben's mother is doing all she can to raise awareness of the syndrome so others can avoid the tragedy that has befallen her family.

Toxic shock's symptoms are far harder to spot when dealing with children who are still not old enough to talk.

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria entering the bloodstream.

Usually, these bacteria live in the nose and mouth, where they are harmless. But once inside the bloodstream, they release dangerous toxins.

It is usually associated with women who use tampons while menstruating. But is is also linked with using of menstrual sponges, diaphragms and cervical caps.

If it isn't treated, toxic shock causes organ damage, disrupts vital bodily functions, and causes large areas of skin to peel off – especially from from the hands and feet.


  • A sudden fever above 38.9C/102F
  • Flu-like symptoms (headache, muscle aches, sore throat)
  • Cough
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Red rash across large areas of the body
  • Reddening of eyes' white areas, lips and tongue

Source: NHS Choices

"I'm speaking out because I want to raise awareness of toxic shock and sepsis [blood poisoning]," said Smith. "More needs to be done so that the medical profession recognise the link between burns injuries and toxic shock."

Toxic shock syndrome occurs when normally harmless bacteria enters a wound and introduces poisons into the body through the blood stream.

"It is very serious indeed because you are effectively racing against these toxins and it's a race against time," paediatrician Dr Nelly Ninis told Sky News.

Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust has admitted full liability and offered an unreserved apology to Reuben and his family.

Tim Deeming, of Slater and Gordon, the family's lawyer has said the family was pleased the trust accepted responsibility so readily.

"It is imperative to ensure that this doesn't happen again, both at Ipswich and across the NHS," he explained.

Reuben's family have begun fundraising to buy him new prosthetic legs, according to The Sun. The toddler's £6,000 ($4,600) replacement limbs have to be replaced twice a year.