Community rallies to help family of toddler stricken with strep infection

Posted July 25, 2012, at 5:16 p.m.
Hailey Mello is fighting for her life after contracting a dangerous case of Streptococcus A bacteria. The community is rallying around the 23-month-old toddler.
Holly Calhoun
Hailey Mello is fighting for her life after contracting a dangerous case of Streptococcus A bacteria. The community is rallying around the 23-month-old toddler.

STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — The midcoast community is rallying around a Stockton Springs toddler who is fighting for her life after coming down with a strep infection Friday.

Hailey Mello is now in an intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and may have to have her right leg amputated later this week, according to a woman who volunteers in her day care center.

“I just talked to her grandmother. Apparently for the first time in a while she is coming out of her sedation and is able to squeeze her mother’s hand,” Holly Calhoun of Searsmont, who is speaking on behalf of the family, said Wednesday morning. “But it’s still very risky, very dangerous.”

Because of the 23-month-old’s extreme medical needs right now, parents Tim Mello and Melody Mansir are not able to work. That gave some friends the idea to hold a fundraiser for them, and they approached staff at Anglers Restaurant in Searsport to ask if they could sell paper hearts for Hailey at the eatery.

Manager Amy Nickerson said the restaurant staff readily agreed to the fundraiser, but also decided to do more to help the family in a tough time.

That’s why 10 percent of all proceeds made on Thursday, July 26 in all three Anglers Restaurant locations — Searsport, Newport and Hampden — will be given to Hailey’s family. The restaurants are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We are all praying that she comes through,” Nickerson said. “It’s a small community, and this is why we live in Maine. When tragedies happen, people come together. This is what Maine is all about. I just wish we could make her better, but at least we can make it so there’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

Calhoun said Hailey became ill at the Piggly Wiggly Daycare in Belmont, where Calhoun volunteers. Her mom came right away to pick her up and get her to the doctor. Hailey became violently ill a short time later, Calhoun said, and had to be transported to Bangor by LifeFlight. There, tests determined that she had Streptococcus A.

The illness has destroyed some of Hailey’s tissue, which is why removal of her right leg below the knee may have to happen, according to Calhoun.

She described the toddler as small for her age and adorable.

“She is fighting for her life right now, without a doubt,” Nickerson said.

Dr. Sheila Pinette, head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that strep is one of the most common illnesses found in school-age children.

The contagious bacterial respiratory illness usually presents symptoms that include a severe sore throat that feels as if the patient is “swallowing glass,” she said.

Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, weakness, paleness, white patches in the back of the throat and enlarged lymph nodes. According to Pinette, extreme cases such as Hailey’s are not common and she has not noticed an uptick statewide in the illness.

“Severe, sometimes life-threatening, [ Group A Streptococcal Disease] may occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle or the lungs,” according to the federal CDC.

Between 9,000 and 11,500 cases of invasive GAS disease occur each year in the United States, resulting in 1,000 to 1,800 deaths a year, the CDC says. Those with chronic diseases, compromised immune systems and open sores are most at risk.

“Patients usually will get better in two to three days with treatment,” Pinette said. “We rely on the parents to make sure they’re keeping an eye on their children, and that they’re getting medical attention as soon as possible.”

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