“Eliza was 10 months old when she contracted bacterial pneumococcal meningitis with septicaemia on the 24th May 2017.
“On the 23rd she was playing in the back garden with her cousin like nothing was wrong. It was only when it got to around 4pm and her temperature spiked and she vomited that I took her to the doctors.
“The doctor we saw was not worried in the slightest. She just said it was down to maybe teething or a little viral bug. We were told to just give her Nurofen to bring her temperature down!
“The doctor gave us the go ahead to fly to Gozo the next morning. Wednesday morning came and my partner Marc, my mum Sarah and I made our way to the airport. Eliza's temperature had started to stabilise and she started to eat a cheese toast in the airport.
A turn for the worse
“Eliza slept the whole three and a half hour plane journey, which is not abnormal for her as she loves her sleep. It wasn't until we arrived in Gozo outside our accommodation literally a few hours later that things started to take a turn for the worse.
“Eliza started to have a seizure in her car seat. All she was doing was twitching her left foot and then she vomited yellow bile.
“I knew then that things weren't right! I googled the nearest hospital and went straight away. The doctors thought it was gastroenteritis and sent us home and told us to keep her temperature down. We got home and settled Eliza in her cot. It wasn't until a few hours after the first hospital visit that things dramatically went wrong.
Mouth clamped shut
“I heard grunting coming from Eliza's cot. I tried to put her dummy in to calm her down but her mouth was clamped shut! We then put the main light on and saw Eliza having an almighty seizure. Her eyes were rolling and her body stiffened up with no sign of consciousness!
“In a matter of hours meningitis had taken over Eliza's body from septicaemia to damaging her brain, leaving her with epilepsy. We got her in the car and back to the hospital where they did the most amazing job and saved our baby’s life! They managed to stabilise Eliza and induced her into a coma to get her seizures under control. They then airlifted her to the main children's hospital Mater Dei in Malta.
Stopped the seizures
“Eliza then started to stabilise and come round a little bit, that didn't last for long! Three days later Eliza started with seizures again, this time much worse, and the doctor struggled to stop them. They only way of stopping them was to ventilate Eliza so she could be pumped full of drugs. Dr Ryan saved Eliza's life that night; he performed a miracle and stopped the seizures.
“When ventilated Eliza was stable but critical. We heard the doctors saying that if she lived the next 48 hours then she had a 50/50 chance of living! Eliza made it!! It then went to two weeks and she smashed that too! Everything that Eliza came across she managed to fight through. She amazed everyone around her.
“The next stage after getting the septicaemia and meningitis under control was to try and bring her out of her coma. It took about two weeks for this to happen and even then she couldn't open her eyelids as the meningitis had attacked the nerve that worked them. We were told this function may never come back but yet again six weeks on Eliza proved them wrong and started to open her eyelids bit by bit, day by day.
Slowly coming back
“Our little Eliza was slowly coming back. The eyelids opening slightly, then the smile came back and then her appetite. The smile soon went again though and we were starting to get worried. The reason for Eliza taking a step backwards was due to her getting hydrocephalus on the brain. The pressure on the brain was getting worse.
“Eliza then had to have drains put in, but that didn't work as well as it should, so Eliza then went down to surgery for six hours to have a vp shunt put in to drain away the fluid. This was unsuccessful too.
“On her first birthday, 11th July, she had to go down for another operation to change the valve on the shunt to drain a bit more fluid. This finally started to work and we could see the difference the day after.
Next massive milestone
“The next massive milestone was watching Eliza put her own dummy in her mouth. From then on day after day she just amazed everyone. Her eyelids fully opened, she was smiling again, putting her own dummy in with no problems and then holding her own bottle. Everything was starting to come together and we could see the light.
“We were told Eliza was blind but soon after the shunt was fitted she started following objects and her eyesight started to get stronger.
“Eliza is known as the miracle baby and captured all the hearts of everyone in the hospital with her fighting spirit. We still have a long way to go with her left hand side as that's got minimal movement at the moment, but with physio a few times a week we can already see her using it more.
“The next milestone is to get her on her feet. The staff and everyone who came into contact with Eliza were truly amazing. They are miracle workers and saved our baby’s life. We will definitely be going back to Malta to see everyone.
“Eliza is making the most amazing recovery and is back to being her smiley little self again. Whatever the future holds for her I have got no doubt that she will not let anything stand in her way. She makes us the proudest parents.
“The support from Meningitis Now has been amazing! From their website and Facebook page to Chris (Chris Hughes, Regional Support Officer in the north of England) coming out to our home to see us has been just the support we needed. They are always at the end of the phone and the most amazing team. I couldn't have got through this without their help and guidance.
“Meningitis has impacted our family in a massive way. The only stories I knew about it didn't have a happy ending. I always thought that this kind of thing would never happen to us but on the 24th May our lives changed when meningitis struck our beautiful and healthy 10-month-old daughter down.
“She fought through the worst meningitis there can be. I was then amazed to find out that Eliza had actually contracted the same meningitis that she was vaccinated against, which is the strain 19A! Thinking that Eliza had these vaccines to stop this from happening and now going through this is just madness. She was one of the very unlucky ones.
Light at the end of the tunnel
“Eliza's progress is amazing so far. We are waiting to see if she is eligible for a cochlear implant as she's completely deaf in her right ear. This will then help her recovery with her speech and development.
“I'm hoping anyone reading Eliza's story feels that there is light at the end of the tunnel for you. Eliza's strength and determination has fought back against this horrible illness that attacks you so very quickly. I would just like to say to anyone reading this that even though you are in a very dark and horrible place there is a way out and a positive outcome. If I can help just one family see that there is life after meningitis strikes then I will be happy.
“The support from other families going through meningitis has helped us all as a family and I'm hoping I can do the same for anyone else going through what we did.”