3-year-old boy loses legs, some fingers after falling off bike, scraping knee

A 3-year-old Arizona boy is recovering after contracting a staph infection that forced him to have his legs and a few fingers amputated.

Beauden Baumkirchner was on vacation with his family on Oct. 5 and scraped his knee while out riding his bike. It seemed like a harmless injury, considering most toddlers tend to get scrapes and bumps every so often. Unfortunately for Beauden, his injury was not ordinary.

Juliana and Brian Baumkirchner, Beauden’s mom and dad, started to notice something strange happening with their son a day after his accident.

“So we arrived on the fifth (of October), he fell on the fifth,” Juliana said. “On the sixth he was lethargic on the couch all day with a high fever and no other visible signs.”

According to his mother, Beauden’s fever did not subside, and he started to have rapid breathing. In the middle of the night, Juliana noticed that her son was having a hard time moving his legs and would have to use his upper body to maneuver himself while he slept.

“He was sleeping in between us and he would use his upper body strength to reposition himself in the bed and we found that kind of odd,” she said.

The next morning, Beauden’s knee was a little bit swollen, which is not out of the ordinary after having a small fall, but according to his mother, he did not even want to stand on his injured leg, which raised some red flags.

“But it was more that he didn’t want to stand on it and it hurt to the touch that we thought, maybe he sprained his knee when he fell the first day that we got here,” Juliana continued. That’s when they brought Beauden to Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego.

Beauden was immediately put into a room and hooked up to IVs. “I would imagine because of the breathing being pretty quick, and then they hooked him up to IVs pretty quickly,” Juliana said.

Beauden (middle) with his mom (Juliana) and dad (Brian) in the hospital.

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Dr. John Bradley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infectious disease at Rady Children’s, took care of Beauden.

Bradley recalled the day Beauden was brought to Rady, looking pale and “not acting healthy” like a regular toddler should.

“Parents are superb at picking up those signals from their child,” Bradley said of Juliana and Brian. “He hit the emergency room and was in profound shock. His blood pressure was incredibly low.”

The ongoing pandemic did not make the hospital visit easier on the family. According to Juliana, only one parent at a time was able to be in the room with Beauden, but that quickly changed after doctors believed the boy’s infection was more serious than previously thought.

Then, within a couple of hours, Beauden started to get “splotchy skin” on his body, according to his mother.

“It started visibly progressing, and then they wanted to take him to an MRI but by the time it was like 3:00 that afternoon and they had him all prepped for the MRI and then shortly after they decided he wasn’t stable enough to go into the MRI because they wouldn’t be able to monitor him closely being in it,” Juliana continued.

“So they took him up to the pediatric ICU and after a lot of tests and labs, they concluded it was MSSA, a staph infection and then his body was experiencing sepsis, septic shock and like toxic shock syndrome, basically. His little hands, and his arms and his legs and his feet, the blood vessels were constricting themselves and the blood flow was basically stopping,” Juliana said.

Bradley recalled having to inundate Beauden immediately with fluids and blood pressure medication to keep his little body alive.

And though Beauden was pale and not being as responsive as most toddlers would, Bradley said the only indication of any ailment was the scrape on the boy’s knee.

“The only clue we had that it was an infection was this scrape on his knee,” Brandley continued. “Which didn’t look too bad, looked like a regular scrape that all kids get.”

“We cultured it (the knee scrape), as well as culturing his bloodstream, but the culture from that skin lesion, showed staph bacteria,” Bradley confirmed. “And staph is really common.”

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Bradley said that the strain of staph bacteria that they found on Beauden’s knee was a common strain, however, the reason the toddler got so sick was because the strain of staph carried toxins that are similar to those that cause toxic shock syndrome.

“So, many people have heard of toxic shock syndrome. It was first reported probably 30, 40 years ago, and we now know that there are specific toxin genes, toxin capability, not all staph have this capability, only a few strains... and his staph carried those toxins,” Bradley said.

And while Beauden’s parents were starting to see the blood going away from their son’s extremities, they couldn’t help but be thankful that he was fighting to stay alive.

“I mean it’s kind of amazing, the human body, what it does. It just naturally starts shutting down in those extremities to protect the organs, the brain and the heart, all the really important stuff,” Juliana continued.

The same night Beauden was admitted to the ICU was when he had his very first surgery, according to his parents.

“They were worried they were going to lose him within an hour or two once we came in,” Brian said. “And that first day, so they were trying to keep him alive.”

“He was too sick to go to the operating room, so they brought the operating room to him,” Brian added.

Doctors operated on Beauden’s leg in order to figure out if there was an origin of infection that was causing this adverse reaction in his body, but according to Brian, there was no “smoking gun.”

“So then the next morning, the swelling on his legs, they had to open up his lower legs,” Beauden’s father continued. The doctors attempted to search for the source of the infection on both sides of his legs.

“And then from that point forward, it was six weeks of surgeries every two and half, three days trying to keep his legs and remove the infection,” Brian said.

Beauden was on multiple antibiotics in order to help stave off the infection that was ravaging his little body. To add to his discomfort, the boy had to be tested for COVID-19 during every new procedure.

According to both Brian and Juliana, doctors were playing catch up after it was safe to say Beauden would be able to survive, but unfortunately, his legs and some fingers were not going to make it.

Before and after photo of Beauden. (Credit: Juliana Baumkirchner)

The brave toddler had endured a total of 18 surgeries.

“Within the first 24, 48 hours of us being there, they were saying that he most likely would lose everything, his arms and both legs,” Juliana said. “And so that seed got planted into our head pretty quickly, but we held onto hope.”

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“Everybody was hopeful with us. They’re the most compassionate team here,” Juliana said of the medical staff at Rady.“His first amputations were both below the knees,” Juliana said. “I believe Nov. 2, and then his body didn’t tolerate that spot, I suppose, so then they had to go back in maybe four or so days later and his left knee was amputated in the knee joint and then the right is in an above the knee amputation. And then I believe during that surgery he lost a couple of fingers as well.”

The doctors at Rady had to sedate Beauden for 10 days, which was another difficult aspect to deal with as their son underwent several medical procedures.

“They knew they had to get him on a breathing tube and sedate him right away. And dialysis started shortly thereafter, but it was a two, two and half weeks where he was sedated, or ten days or something, a long time for him not to be coherent,” Brian said. “And to have that back is amazing.”

After spending nearly nine weeks in intensive care, Beauden was just recently moved out of the pediatric ICU.

“We feel like we lucked out,” Juliana said. “That he has one beautiful, healthy arm and hand, they’re just going to need a lot of hand therapies and occupational therapy, physical therapy, that kind of stuff.”Now, the Baumkirchners are on the long road to recovery. “So now, he’s stable, really stable now. He’s more in the rehab part and hopefully we’ll be able to be home by Christmas. Would be a fantastic Christmas present,” Brian said with a smile on his face.

And while all of this was happening, the Baumkirchners had two daughters waiting anxiously for their little brother’s return.

Juliana Baumkirchner )Beauden and his sisters, Brianna and Brigitte. (Credit: 

Beauden’s sisters, Brianna, 8, and Brigitte, 6, are ready for their family to come back home after being away for so long, but the kids are being cared for by family and friends.

“That’s been tortuous in itself and we’ve just had awesome family members and friends helping out,” Juliana said.

“My sister had them (Brianna and Brigitte) make a Christmas list and Brianna went through, like she would say what it was and how much it cost, and made columns and stuff and on the very last line it said, ‘Mommy, daddy and Beauden to come home,’ and then put zero dollars, it was so cute,” Juliana said with a chuckle.

Even with the hope that the family will be together in time for the holidays, one question still lingers in the back of the Baumkirchners’ minds: Could Beauden’s plight have been avoided?

“It’s scary because this is, no one knows why he got it, no one knows exactly where he got it from. What they do know is that you and I along with every single person has staph on their body under their fingers, under their nose on their skin, all over. And for his body to get it and react the way he did, they thought he had a compromised immune system, which was not the case,” Brian said.

“So it’s scary to think, how you live going forward with our two daughters and anyone with children, how you protect them,” Brian continued. “And to think in a world of COVID and now, here’s this thing, a staph infection, can do this? Not in a million years would you have ever dreamed anything like this could have ever happened.”

“Nobody prepared that, for us as parents. You get prepared that they’re going to have colds, maybe they’re going to get broken bones, they’re going to get the flu, and you know, COVID out there, and nobody once, ever suggested you know, to look out for crazy infections that could shut your body down almost,” Juliana added.

Bradley said that while they know it was staph that caused the shock in Beauden’s body, they still are not sure how the particular toxins that led to his extreme outcome got there.

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“This was a minor injury, very minor, but somehow, somewhere this strain of staph got on him and we don’t know whether it was from where the family lives or in the mobile park on the beach where they were vacationing, but this staph got on his skin where it was scraped, began to grow, and of course if the skin scraped then the bacteria can get in and it started to invade and produce toxins,” Bradley explained.

Within hours of playing and being a “happy camper,” the aggressive infection is what sent Beauden to the ICU and put him on life support, Bradley said.

In the wake of their experience, the Baumkirchners want to caution parents to watch their kids, even more than they usually would.

“It’s important for parents to really watch their children,” Brian said. “We watched our son to the tee, and there was no symptoms of anything. And how you prevent it is super difficult because most of the time you can’t even see anything, it’s inside their bodies.”

Bradley said public health departments in San Diego, as well as Lake Havasu, Arizona, where Beauden is from, have been notified in the event a similar incident occurs.

But according to Bradley, it is unlikely.

“So far there’s no other case, so this may be a bacteria that’s not well-adapted to invading humans and so if it lives on the skin, it can’t do any harm,” Bradley continued. “And if there’s not injury to the skin, it’s just harmless.”

“What we’re looking for is to see if this bacteria, that has all these toxins, is capable of spreading from one person to the next and causing invasion,” Bradley said.

“Just treat your kids the way you would normally. And if they act sick take them to the doctor,” Bradley said. “It’s far more likely to be something else than this particular staph.”

“As a parent, you know something is horribly wrong when your child stops responding,” Bradley added, pointing out that Juliana and Brian could tell after Beauden was lethargic the day after he got hurt.

“Right now, it’s a one-off. This was tragic but we don’t see this as a public health problem that needs to be shared with all the parents. God knows they have enough to worry about right now,” Bradley said.

Despite going through this harrowing incident, the Baumkirchners are thankful for the way their situation turned out.

Beauden recovering in the hospital. (Credi: Juliana Baumkirchner)

“We’re not driving home with an empty car seat,” Juliana said. “So that in itself is a blessing.”

Bradley applauded the family for staying positive throughout Beauden’s time in the hospital, even celebrating the fact that because he’s just a toddler, the amount of time Beauden will have to adapt to prosthetics will make the transition much easier than if it happened to an adult.

“It’s so positive. Many parents would just be devastated and just see that their child’s life has been ruined. These parents are looking at the positive side of everything, so it’s a real blessing for this kid,” Bradley said.

“He’s only 3. So a couple of years from now, with his prosthetics, he won’t know any different,” Bradley said. “He’ll see other kids who don’t have prosthetics, but he’s going to adapt. He’ll be walking. The orthopedic surgeon told me he’ll be running in his prosthetics, which is music to my ears.”

A family member has set up a GoFundMe to help with medical costs as well as any future prosthetics that Beauden may need.