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Ava's story

1st January 2011

Little Ava grew increasingly ill and kept vomiting. Her mum trusted her instincts and got her to hospital. She spent weeks battling the disease with medical help. Sadly, she lost her toes, but is now doing well and dancing

Ava's story

"January 2011, I had just returned to work after maternity.

Ava was her normal self apart from a bit of a cold but happy enough to play with her nannie whilst I went to work.

I came home from work around 5.30pm and again Ava was fine, so we had tea, I bathed her, gave her a bottle and off to sleep she went, she was a great sleeper for only being 13 months.

I went to bed around 10pm and that was it until 3am, when I was woken up by Ava, she had a cry I’ll never forget as long as I live – it wasn't a scream or a normal cry, it was like she couldn't be bothered to cry."

Running a temperature

"I put my arms round her and realised how hot she was, she was burning so I got the thermometer out and her temp was at 40.8. I had a feeling this wasn't right, I gave her some medicine she vomited it back up.

At this point, I called my parents to come over, they did and within ten minutes she was giggling. Even then I knew something wasn't right, gut instinct or mother’s instinct I'm not sure, just knew my baby was poorly.

So, off we went to A&E, up there for 3.40. Ava had vomited another three times, we were told she could have pneumonia. We were transferred to the children's ward and the doctor there thought she had swine flu, this is now 6am.

I felt happy knowing they had found out what was wrong. Still no rash, very few symptoms of meningitis, along came a nurse to give some more medicine to Ava, she was asleep so they left her.

At around 10am, another doctor came to examine her and he wasn't happy as her temp was still high and she had a high heart rate. He told us she was being kept in until at least 3pm that afternoon and told us if she gets a rash, we must immediately call for him."

The rash

"Twenty minutes later I changed her nappy and noticed a purple spot on her groin, a bit like a bruise so we called the doctor. By the time he came in there were two more, he then gave us the worst news in the world - our daughter had meningitis.

We did not know how bad this was going to get but it got a lot worse than we could ever imagine. She went downhill dramatically, so bad that at 2.40pm they were sedating her to put her on a ventilator to save her life. We were informed she needed to be transferred to another hospital to be on the PICU.

A team of doctors arrived with a lifeline ambulance, three hours later a doctor came to see us and gave us the most devastating news any parent can receive. His words were – “your daughter has meningococcal septicaemia, children die from this and there is a chance your daughter could too, she is seriously ill." My world fell apart."

We went to the other hospital and sat in a room for what felt like weeks and finally at 10.40pm I was allowed to see her. The only word to describe what I saw was horrific, she was lying there lifeless and swollen, from all the fluid they pumped into her.

The weekend passed and we got called in to see the doctor. They told us she was no better but they are keeping her stable and the next step was to reduce the drugs to see if she could survive. By this point I was focused, I wasn't going to let my baby down.

I went in and saw her, and told her we were strong enough to face this and if she got through this then I would never let her fight anything alone again.

I promised her the world, talked about the adventures we were going to have and day-by-day she improved. Still on the ventilator on the Wednesday, we saw a plastic surgeon, her feet were black, they gave us the news that her toes were gone and possibly part of her feet.

At this point I was too concerned and I said to them take her arms, legs, whatever, all I need is a heartbeat and smile off her. I'll love her all the same because she was and always will be my baby.

Another few days passed, things were reduced even taken away, 10 days after her being taken bad, they decided to take her off the ventilator. I felt my prayers had been answered, it was a step forward so at 11.40am, Sunday 16th January, 2011, my daughter woke up and was breathing on her own. I felt like I had given birth all over again, the feeling was amazing we just couldn't believe it."

On the mend

"The following day she was moved to a plastics ward, where we were released on the Wednesday to go back for daily appointments for her feet.

Three weeks later, we went back in for the amputations, where they removed all 10 of her toes and parts of her feet. The right foot was the worst. They also skin grafted her groin, where the first spot appeared, she was doing great.

After three weeks in hospital, we were released for daily appointments, which then went to every other day, to weekly. In July they removed all bandages.

We were advised to get shoes on her so she could get used to standing, so that afternoon we put her in shoes and Ava being Ava, stood for the first time. By the end of July, she was walking and by August she was running.

In January 2013 Ava wanted to start dancing, so we allowed her to do it and she loves it. She did her first show in June. Ava wears inserts in her shoes and will more than likely need them for the rest of her life but, as we say, a small price to pay for her life."