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Harry B's story

11th May 2015

When five week old Harry wouldn’t wake for his feed, concerned mother, Helen Burnett, took him to A&E to get him checked over

Harry B's story

His condition took a turn for the worse when his oxygen levels became low and his breathing stopped two to three times a minute Helen recalls her frightening experience here.

“Harry was born five weeks early following a few mild complications. He had low blood sugar and jaundice but was treated for these conditions before coming home. After a few days at home I noticed he was going a navy blue colour around his mouth. I was told this was wind but wasn’t convinced. Harry was my third child and I had never seen anything like this before.

Five weeks after Harry was born he developed a cold and on the night of the 27th January 2014 he had a 9:00pm feed, but only managed a few mouthfuls. As he was premature, he needed to be fed every three hours so I had been setting my alarm for each feed. However, in the days leading up to the 27th I had stopped setting the alarm as he had been waking me every three hours naturally. This night he did not.

I don’t know why, but luckily I woke up at 3:00am and when I saw the time I jumped out of bed and tried to feed Harry but he wouldn't rouse.”

Worrying symptoms

“I took him downstairs and turned on all the lights. I removed all his clothing but he still didn't wake. He looked grey and was making a faint groaning noise. As he wouldn't feed, I suspected he had low blood sugar levels again, so I packed a bag and took him to A&E.

I checked him in and we were called through to see the nurse almost immediately. By this point Harry looked navy blue in colour.

The nurse checked his oxygen and it was only 33%. He was rushed into resus to be monitored. They quickly noticed that his breathing was stopping two to three times a minute, but a gentle shake started him breathing again.

Harry was transferred to the High Dependency Unit where they tried several different breathing machines to help him. By approximately 1:00pm there was still no improvement so the doctors explained to me that he would need to be ventilated. They suspected he had bronchiolitis.

Harry was ventilated and transferred to children’s ICU at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

On the Tuesday, nearly 72 hours later, Harry developed a rash that looked like measles. As the doctors now felt he was stable enough, Harry was taken for a lumbar puncture. The results came back that afternoon which confirmed he had viral meningitis. I was in shock; I thought my baby boy didn't stand a chance.

But Harry was lucky and by Thursday was making a good recovery. He came off the ventilator that evening and it was like he had reverted to being a new-born. I had never established breast feeding as I had poor milk supply so had been feeding him expressed milk from a bottle since week two but as soon as he was put in my arms he latched onto me as he was so hungry.”


“Although his breathing had steadied, I quickly noticed that Harry was getting very distressed and I realised that he was not responding to anything visual in front of him. His eyes were checked and the hospital said they appeared to be fine but, as he was so young, it was difficult to tell.

Earlier this year he was diagnosed as being extremely long sighted. I have no doubt this was caused by viral meningitis as a few days prior to his illness he had started to give me good eye to eye contact.”


“15 months on and Harry has made a brilliant recovery. He had a rough first year with numerous hospital admissions in 2014 but this has now settled. He is a very happy, loving little boy who is developing a little slowly, but with no major concerns from medical staff.

I feel thankful every day that he was one of the lucky ones and that something made me wake up at 3:00am. I fear that if I had woken in the morning I would have found him no longer with us. I sometimes still find it difficult to fully grasp what Harry went through; thankfully it is now a distant memory.”