A Rhode Island high school soccer player who suddenly fell ill had her sore throat turned into a shocking tragedy.
Gianna Cirella, 16, was at soccer practice when she began complaining of a sore throat.

It soon became apparent, however, that what seemed like a routine illness was a potentially fatal condition. Three days after the first symptoms, Gianna was in the hospital facing limb amputation and fighting for her life.

What began as a throat infection quickly turned into pneumonia, and then Gianna developed sepsis. As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis is an extreme response to an infection.

It occurs when an existing infection “triggers a chain reaction throughout your body,” and is life-threatening if not treated quickly enough.

Pneumonia — an infection of the lungs — is one of the four types of infections which most often lead to sepsis. The others are infections of the kidney, skin, and intestines.

Gianna was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, where one of her legs had to be amputated after the infection spread to it. Her family and friends were shocked at how fast her condition deteriorated.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Gianna’s soccer coach, Lonna Razza, to The Providence Journal. “It was shocking — shocking — that it came on so quickly.”

Gianna’s soccer teammates showed their support on the field by wearing purple armbands and ribbons. They also organized a blood drive, promoted a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with medical bills, and took shifts at the hospital visiting Gianna to help keep her spirits up.

The team dedicated one of their games to Gianna, during which her sister scored a goal. “Of all nights, this was the night she scored that goal,” Razza said. “And it was for her sister. We all felt it. We all knew it.”

The GoFundMe page provided details of Gianna’s personality. “If you asked any of Gianna’s family or friends, they would be the first to tell you that she is one of the most charismatic people you will ever meet,” it said. “She has a unique sense of humor, and wherever she goes, an abundance of laughs follow. She is a devoted friend, student, and athlete, and is considered as family to many.”

Gianna died on Nov. 1, only two weeks after her symptoms began. In response, her high school has brought in grief counselors to help students cope with the teen’s shocking and sudden death..