Parents say 12-year-old’s back pain turns into life-threatening infection

Jul 7, 2023, 6:41 PM | Updated: Jul 8, 2023, 2:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — When Tom Parkin’s daughter started complaining of back pain after a trip to the pool, he didn’t think much of it. 

“She said that she pulled a muscle in her back swimming and that grew into a spasm,” Parkin said. “After a visit with the pediatrician and an x-ray, he said ‘yeah, just give her painkillers killers.’”

The pain never let up. For two weeks, 12-year-old Diana could not sleep, eat, and developed concerning breathing issues.

“She started getting a little rash with pimples that were water-filled, very unusual looking,” Parkin said.

The family rushed her to urgent care where doctors determined her condition was so severe, she needed to be flown to Primary Children’s Hospital. Further tests revealed she had a deadly infection known as MRSA, which caused an abscess in her back, pneumonia in her lungs, sepsis, and respiratory failure.

“They are not sure exactly how it happened, but it likely came through the lungs,” Parkin said. “She could have been in contact with somebody with it. It could’ve been while swimming, it could’ve been…they’re just not sure.”

The infection rapidly progressed, and Diana is now kept alive on a ventilator. She has had multiple surgeries including one where doctors inserted a tube in each lung to drain fluid.

Her family is hopeful she will make a full recovery and is happy to see her spirits are improving.

“I walked into her room, and they were playing Eye of the Tiger,” Parkin said. “There she was moving her head to the beat, the rhythm, mouthing the words.” 

Parkin said he wished the family would have known what MRSA symptoms looked like earlier. They are hoping others learn from their experience.

“I had no idea; I wish a couple of weeks ago I would have known to look for those signs. I wish we brought her to the emergency room sooner,” Parkin said. “If you have a parental intuition that something is wrong, maybe you need to ask for an MRI from your doctor.”

Diana’s parents have both set up GoFundMe accounts to help pay for medical expenses.

GoFundMe* on behalf of Mom, Isabel.

GoFundme* on behalf of Dad, Tom Parkin.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Parents say 12-year-old’s back pain turns into life-threatening infection