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The rash that turned out to be fatal: Little boy died from Henoch-Schonlein purpura

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  • Sam Leask developed swollen joints and red marks on his legs
  • Was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Henoch-Schonlein purpura
  • Little boy had genetic disposition that made his condition fatal
  • 'He was quite simply a lovely boy,' said his father

By Anna Hodgekiss

PUBLISHED: 08:59 EST, 2 November 2012 | UPDATED: 11:42 EST, 2 November 2012

A healthy schoolboy who had ‘never been ill in his life’ died just weeks after a family camping holiday - during which he developed a rash on his leg.

Nine-year-old Sam Leask was rushed to hospital with swollen joints and red marks on his legs and was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP).

Soon after his kidneys failed and surgeons battled to save him. Despite undergoing a five-hour operation to remove his badly damaged colon, he died just weeks later.

Nine-year-old Sam Leask (pictured with sister Izzy) was perfectly healthy until he suffered a fatal reaction to a rash on his leg

Nine-year-old Sam Leask (pictured with sister Izzy) was perfectly healthy until he suffered a fatal reaction to a rash on his leg

His mother Katharine, 42, said: 'Sam had never been ill in his life. I had never heard of the disease before he was diagnosed.

'Doctors said it normally goes away in time but because Sam has a certain genetic disposition, there were complications and he died.

'It feels like there is a hole, a void, that will never be filled. He was an adventurous and lovely boy and he had so much going for him.'

Sam was camping with his family north of Ullswater in the Lake District in July when he developed a rash on his legs and found it too painful to stand up.

He was taken by ambulance to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle where he was diagnosed with HSP, a condition that usually clears in time.

While in Yorkhill Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Sam was visited by Olympic silver medallists David Smith (left) and Luke Patience (right)

While in Yorkhill Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Sam was visited by Olympic silver medallists David Smith (left) and Luke Patience (right)

After one night in hospital Sam was given permission to return home to the village of Kirkmahoe, Dumfries and Galloway, with Katharine, father Julian, 43, and seven-year-old sister Izzy.

But 12 days later Sam’s condition worsened and he hospitalised, when his kidneys failed. He died on October 13.

HSP is a form of blood vessel inflammation and affects small blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, commonly characterised by a purple rash, and affects one in 10,000 people, usually aged between two and 10 - in a minority of cases complications lead to organ failure.

An example of HSP, which is a form of blood vessel inflammation. It affects small blood vessels in the skin and kidneys and is characterised by a purple rash

An example of HSP, which is a form of blood vessel inflammation. It affects small blood vessels in the skin and kidneys and is characterised by a purple rash

His devastated mother said: 'As we knew that nothing more could be one following surgery we did have a few precious days to make Sam feel so very loved.

'We will forever be indebted to the staff of initially Dumfries Royal Infirmary and subsequently Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, Glasgow, for their tireless efforts in caring for Sam.

'His dignity and peace were ensured until the end and the emotional care and support continues on for us as a family.'

Sam’s father Julian added: 'Sam was an adventurous little boy and when he went on holiday, we were more worried about the fact the campsite was near a main road.

He loved music and played the double bass. He loved doing impressions and playing football and rugby.

He was lots of fun and very bright. We could take him anywhere and he’d get on with everyone; there was nothing he loved more than people.

'He was quite simply a lovely boy.'

Sam's parents have set up the Sam Leask Memorial Playground Fund to raise money to improve a children’s area in the Scottish village of Kirkton, near where they lived.  

For more information: Henoch Schonlein Purpura Support Group on 01733 204368 (10am-2pm) or e-mail: hsphelp@inbox.com

http://localgiving.com/charity/samleask

HENOCH-SCHONLEIN PURPURA

HSP is a form of blood vessel inflammation and affects small blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, commonly characterised by a purple rash.

It affects one in 10,000 people, usually aged between two and 10 - in a minority of cases complications lead to organ failure.

It’s not known exactly what causes it, but it often seems to follow on from a viral infection, such as a cold or respiratory tract infection, and is more common in the winter months. 

HSP is not an inherited disease and is not ‘catching’ so it cannot be passed on from person to person.

There are usually three key symptoms. The first is a characteristic rash of raised red/purple spots that do not disappear when you press on them. It can be very alarming as it’s similar to the type of rash you see with meningococcal septicaemia. The rash is caused by tiny blood vessels (capillaries) near the surface of the skin becoming inflamed and damaged, and leaking blood into the skin.

An HSP rash is generally found in the lower part of the body – around the buttocks and lower legs. It can also appear on the body, face and hands. Once the rash has fully appeared it doesn’t come and go – it tends to stay for days or even weeks.

The second symptom is often abdominal pain, often in the form of stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Many children also experience joint pains and blood may appear in the urine.

Unfortunately only the symptoms can be treated. But the condition usually settles down within around six weeks and the vast majority of people make a full recovery with no long-term effects.

The most serious possible consequence of HSP is kidney damage. For this reason, regular urine tests to monitor kidney function are important, even once someone has recovered. 

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital

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