Samantha Scott didn’t think her sore and swollen throat was serious. By the time she got help, it was too late.
As KDVR reports, the 23-year-old from Fort Morgan, Colorado was an architectural engineering student and member of the rowing team at Kansas State University. In mid-October, Scott started feeling ill. Her throat was painful and swollen. Thinking it was just tonsillitis, Scott initially ignored the symptoms.
When she finally went to the hospital, Scott learned that she didn’t have tonsillitis after all. Instead, she was diagnosed with Lemierre syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal bacterial infection.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Lemierre syndrome begins as an infection in the throat, which then spreads via the lymphatic vessels. Early symptoms include fever and a sore throat. Then the jugular vein swells and pus-containing tissue begins to move through the body.
Lemierre syndrome is so rare that its causes are not well-understood — one doctor told Self that even specialists will only see one or two cases in their career. It is treatable with antibiotics, which have reduced the mortality rate of the disease from 90 percent (before antibiotics) to about ten percent.
Though most people recover from Lemierre syndrome, early diagnosis and treatment are critical. A delay of four days or more in addressing the infection can lead to serious complications, including meningitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and bone infection.
In Scott’s case, the complications were severe. Kennidi Cobbley, Scott’s childhood friend, told the Wichita Eagle that Scott’s treatment began with antibiotics, but her condition kept getting worse:
“It moved to pneumonia and she was hospitalized and all of a sudden it started attacking all of her organs with her lungs and her heart.”
For a short time, it looked like Scott was getting better, but it was only temporary. She died on October 27, about two weeks after her symptoms began. Cobbley told the Eagle:
“She really was a one of a kind person. She was always happy. I don’t think you could find anyone who could say one negative thing about her. She was always willing to help other people, outgoing but still shy a little bit. She was just really unique.”
Scott’s coach on the rowing team spoke about her leadership and impact on the team, and the athletic director and Kansas State offered his condolences to Scott’s family and the rowing program.
— K-State Football (@KStateFB) November 2, 2018
Last weekend, the Kansas State football team wore a helmet sticker with Scott’s name and crossed rowing paddles as well as carrying a block of wood that read “Samantha” onto the field. They usually carry a wood block that says “Family.”
Cobbley has started a GoFundMe campaign to help Scott’s family with medical and funeral costs. She told the Eagle: “Spreading the word about the GoFundMe page is my biggest goal right now. I want to help her family out because they are really struggling.”