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8-year-old girl hospitalized with Strep A heads home in time for sister's birthday

This comes a week after Celeste and her Imperial, Missouri, family went camping for the holiday weekend. Celeste said she had a sore throat and couldn't breathe.

ST. LOUIS — Eight-year-old Celeste Espy headed home Tuesday after being hospitalized with a serious respiratory illness following Memorial Day weekend.

Emma Espy, Celeste's mother, carried her daughter in her left arm and held hands with Camille, Celeste's sister, as they went through hospital doors and headed for home Tuesday afternoon.

“She has been asking for her cat since she woke up. She sleeps with her every night under her blankets in her arms,” Emma Espy said.

This comes a week after Celeste and her Imperial, Missouri, family went camping for the holiday weekend. Before the trip, Celeste said she had a sore throat and couldn't breathe. Her family took her to urgent care immediately. 

After two breathing treatments, nothing was working on Celeste.  

Espy said her daughter got worse and she was taken to St. Clair Health

At the hospital, she was given another breathing treatment and then staff tried a fourth, but still saw no improvement. 

The hospital then transported Celeste by ambulance to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. 

"She was on 6 liters of oxygen, and they did a virus test. She tested positive for parainfluenza. She gets admitted and deteriorated so fast. She broke out with a rash all over her body, on her face and back," Espy said.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs) cause upper and lower respiratory illnesses in infants, young children, and people with weak immune systems. Symptoms are similar to that of the common cold. 

Espy said she knows her daughter as a sweet, bubbly little girl. 

"She’s my sweetheart ... my soul," Espy said. 

She also said her daughter has a lot of anxiety, which made the process of the illness slightly more difficult.

"She has ADHD, ODD, and they suspect she has autism. It was hard to treat her with sensory overload," she added. 

Espy explained her daughter was having three-to-four-hour coughing fits and was on extensive pain medicine. 

Espy said she asked doctors for another chest x-ray for her daughter.

"She had viral pneumonia when she came in from being sick and it had spread into bacterial pneumonia with the Strep A. It completely whited out her left lung, you couldn’t even see her ribs. In 24-hours, the whole lung was white," Espy recalled.

Group A streptococci are the same bacteria that cause strep throat and scarlet fever, but invasive infections refer to more serious cases in which the bacteria spread to areas of the body that such pathogens normally don't reach, like the bloodstream.

At the end of 2022, the CDC issued an alert about an increase in pediatric cases of invasive group A strep infections. 

Espy said the doctors told her they needed to intubate and put Celeste on a ventilator. 

"I thought my daughter was going to die," Epsy said. 

After four different antibiotics, Espy said her daughter slowly got better. On Monday, she started breathing on her own and her chest tube was removed. 

Espy calls her daughter a fighter, knowing there's still more fight ahead. 

"She’s going to need home health, physical therapy, occupational therapy," she added. 

The Espy family planned on throwing a party Tuesday night, just in time to celebrate Camille's birthday with Celeste by her side.

If you want to help out the Espys, here is the family GoFundMe

For updates on Celeste, her mom created a 'Team Celeste' Facebook page.

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