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Cian's story

15th January 2015

Nine-month-old Cían, from Craigavon in Armagh, had a high temperature, cried when he was lifted and had cold hands and feet. The out of hours doctor put the symptoms down to teething but 12 hours later mum Caitriona noticed a rash and rushed him straight to A & E. Cían had meningococcal septicaemia

Cian's story

“It was a beautiful summer day and I had taken Cían to the park to play and feed the ducks.

"He was happy, laughing and we had a great day.

"Later in the evening I noticed Cían was unusually tired. I thought it was because of the heat, and I tried bathing him in cool water but it didn’t make any difference, he was burning up. He was hotter than usual, I could actually see the beads of sweat running down his forehead, so his grandparents brought us to the out of hours doctor.

"After a quick examination, and a temperature reading of 39.5c, I was told my child was teething and to take him home and give him Calpol.

"Maybe it was new parent nerves or perhaps mother’s intuition but I knew there was something more, it just didn't add up. Cían was off his food, he screeched when I lifted him and although his temperature was extremely high, his hands and feet were cool, a symptom I wasn't aware was associated with meningitis.

"It was an unsettling night, I just watched my baby boy throughout the night, watching his breathing quicken and monitored his temperature. The doctor had said it was teething, I should have had no reason to doubt him but I did, I knew it was something else, I just didn't know what."

The worst possible nightmare

“Then at 6.40am I woke with a start with Cían beside me. I felt like I had just fallen asleep for five minutes but I woke up to the worst possible nightmare any mother could face. I watched the rash spread rapidly over my little boy’s body, first his face, quickly making its way all over his body, it reminded me of ink being spilt on material the way it just spread so quickly.

"I lifted Cían and tried calling my dad to come get us and bring us to hospital. I immediately thought of meningitis and tried the glass test but amidst all the panic and fear I couldn't remember how to tell if it was or not.

"The journey is 10 minutes to the hospital. It felt like the longest journey of my life.

"Cían slipped into unconsciousness on the way over and as soon as we arrived, I ran to the nearest doctor. I didn't need to say a word - the doctor grabbed Cían and rushed to a side room. Within seconds there was a team of around 10 doctors and nurses working on Cían, pumping drugs and needles in his arms, head, legs and chest.

Horrific and mesmerising

“It was horrific and at the same time mesmerising to see so many doctors trying to help my baby. Within minutes the consultant came to tell me the dreaded news, Cían had meningitis and was extremely sick, so sick they weren't sure if he was going to make it to the nearest children's hospital in Belfast, the Royal, which was only 30 minutes away.

"It’s so hard to try and put into words the overwhelming grief I felt when I was told my child may only have half an hour to live, but to be faced with the difficult choice to either travel with him in the ambulance or let another doctor travel in the hope that they may save him. Of course, I put my trust in the doctors and prayed to God I hadn't just given up my last moments with my baby for no reason.

"The minutes turned into hours and then days. Cían was in ICU for almost a week, and I was happy. Even though his tiny body had doubled in size with all the steroids and he had frostbite on his chest from piling on icepacks to control his temperature I was happy because he was still here.

"His body had turned black, as I later found out he had the worst case of meningococcal septicaemia and the disease had caused his blood supply to cut off. I was faced with the possibility that he may lose his limbs and there was a possibility of brain damage because the blood supply to his brain had shut down, but it was a no brainer to me if it meant I could look at my baby's face every day. I just wanted him to wake up.

"For the entire time I kept a vigil by his bedside, along with his grandparents and aunty and uncles. Family was so important at this time, I don't think I could have done it without them.

"On 18 August my boy opened his eyes for the first time since the ordeal, and it was undoubtedly the most heart-wrenching moment any parent could hope for. I felt like I was holding him for the first time when they put him in my arms.

"And, on 21 August, we left to go home together. My baby boy had put up such a tremendous fight, and I thank God every time I look at him.

"He has grown up to be the most pleasant and wonderful child without any major after-effects – some scarring and sensitivity in his ears. It was a long recovery process for both of us when we got home. I'm sure any parent who has been through a traumatic ordeal with their child could tell you, you are thankful in ways no-one can understand for those precious moments.

"I find myself very lucky to have come out the other side and have the chance to watch my child grow up. I just wish I had know more about the symptoms in order to make a judgment call and get a second opinion at the hospital.

Meningitis Now has been fantastic throughout the whole ordeal.

"I had a lady visit to talk to me and help explain all there is to know about the disease and also how to cope afterwards. I held a charity night to raise awareness soon after and was greatly supported by friends and family. I hope they continue to gain the funds needed for helping families like they helped me.”