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Toddler Injured in Superstorm Sandy Now Battles Deadly Infection

Courtesy of the Halstead family(ATLANTA) -- A Georgia 2-year-old struck by a tree branch during Superstorm Sandy is now battling a potentially life-threatening illness he contracted while in the hospital receiving treatment for his injuries, his family said on Facebook.

Tripp Halstead was playing outside his daycare center in Winder, Ga., on Oct. 29 when Sandy’s winds brought a tree limb down on his head.  He suffered brain damage, underwent emergency surgery and has been in Children’s Health Care of Atlanta ever since.  Last week -- more than three months after the historic storm -- Tripp contracted bacterial meningitis, his mother said on Facebook.

“I have just been staring at that sweet little face.  To think we had come so far, then to get the scare on Thursday that he might have a life- threatening infection and we might lose him,” Stacy Halstead posted on Facebook Saturday.  “Worst day to boot so far.”

The boy’s Facebook page has generated at least 231,831 “likes” since it was set up soon after his injury.  His parents have been asking readers to pray for their son and contribute money for expenses related to his care.

Bacterial meningitis usually affects brain trauma patients in medium- or long-term intensive care, Dr. Bill Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.  It usually occurs when bacteria gets into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain, he said.

Even with the cleanest instruments, there’s always a risk bacteria will be introduced into a person’s body when hospital workers use a needle, catheter or other medical tool, he said.

“Every time you breach the body’s protective surface you run the risk of an infection getting from the outside in,” Schaffner said.  “The longer you’re in an intensive care unit, the higher the risk is.”

There are two types of meningitis -- viral and bacterial -- and bacterial meningitis is the more dangerous, Schaffner said.  A vaccine for the viral form, called meningococcal meningitis, is routinely administered to kids starting at age 11, he said.

Tripp got the infection after an emergency surgery was performed Thursday to remove a pump that had been inserted into the fluid surrounding Tripp’s brain to administer medication, his family said.

It appears that doctors noticed the infection early.  Normal treatment would include giving Tripp antibiotics, said Schaffner, who is not involved in Tripp’s treatment.

Tripp’s mother said doctors were able to remove the boy’s breathing tube on Saturday.

“They still think he is doing better.  Still has an infection in his blood so not sure how much longer we will be in ICU,” she said.  “They are doing all that they can to fight it.  He is such a little trooper and hanging in there.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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