“The day Emily turned two weeks old she woke like every other day, had her morning feed and tried to settle down for a sleep.
She was lying in her Moses basket as I saw to her brother Luke.
“By around 3pm she became very irritable, she was crying on and off and screeched when being handled or touched. Because I knew this wasn't like her I called the GP, mainly because she hadn't properly fed since 7am. The GP called back and said ‘it sounds like reflux and the pain of the acid is what's putting her off feeding; if she's no better by Monday bring her down and I'll prescribe some infant Gaviscon.
“By 5.30pm she was burning up and constantly crying. Her temperature was over 38°C. When 6pm came her temperature was still rising, and because of her age I couldn't give her anything at home to try and bring it down. We stripped her right down to her nappy and rang the out of hours GP. Straight away he told me to pack a bag and bring her immediately to A&E.
“We arrived at A&E where we were told to wait for triage. I couldn't wait, Emily needed to be seen ASAP. We got her in to be triaged, her heart rate was high and her temperature was 39.4. She was brought into a side room while the doctors in A&E got the paediatrician down. While waiting I managed to get Emily to take a feed, her first since morning.”
Noticed she was quite mottled
“The doctors then came down and started giving her fluid and asking me questions. It wasn't until they asked that I noticed she was quite mottled. They mentioned Group b Strep numerous times; I'd never been tested.
“By 11pm we were told that Emily was being admitted because they didn't know what they were treating and she was very poorly. They mentioned suspected sepsis and suspected meningitis so started her on two different antibiotics straight away. As soon as I heard sepsis and meningitis my whole world just crashed around me. Only days before I had watched a video about a baby who had lost his life to sepsis. Everything was a blur. All I can remember is being told they wanted to do a lumbar puncture and again, I broke down. We went to the ward and they explained the procedure, and then took her and did it. My heart broke for her.
Monitor constantly beeping
“That night her sats were all over the place. The monitor was constantly beeping because her oxygen was too low and her heart rate too high. On the Saturday we thought she was getting somewhere, at one point her temperature came down to 37°C but it was straight back up within the hour. Regular paracetamol and ibuprofen just weren’t helping.
“They took her out of the incubator and into a crib with a fan on to see if that would help. It didn't. At around 2am on 25th September the nurse gave her a one off dose of another antibiotic to see if it would help. It didn't. When 5am came and they checked her obs again, her temperature was 40.9 and her heart rate was over 250 beats per minute.
“The nurse said she wanted the doctor to check her over so took her down to the treatment room for what felt like forever! They must have been down for about 45 minutes when a nurse came and told us she was very dehydrated and was getting some oxygen before they started giving her fluids.
“Away she went and we were left sitting wondering, when about 15 people went rushing past our room towards the treatment room, I didn't put two and two together at the time but they were running to Emily. The consultant came to us and asked permission to shave her head to put a line in because they couldn't get a vein in her hands, feet, arms or legs.
Struggling to breathe
“She also told us Emily was struggling to breathe so they would need to fit a ventilator and she would need to be transferred to paediatric ICU in The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. As soon as that consultant left Emily's daddy and I cried our hearts out, we were so scared! We saw her for a few minutes before they took her up to theatre. I just wanted to scoop her up and take it all away.
“Emily's daddy left to get more nappies because we didn't know how long she would be in ICU for. I gathered up her bits and pieces and waited for the doctor to come and get me. Once he arrived he brought me up to see Emily. She was sedated with the ventilator going, adrenaline being pumped into her because her blood pressure was very low, lying there just as if she was asleep with a line in her head and a line in her neck.
“Once she got settled in ICU we were allowed to see her. She looked so vulnerable. She stayed sedated until the Monday morning but we still didn't know what was wrong, the nurses kept saying viral sepsis. Emily's infection markers weren't raised but she showed all the signs for an infection; they just couldn't find the source.
Just kept improving
“By Tuesday Emily was well enough to leave PICU and go back to The Ulster Hospital, where she stayed for a further three days. She just kept improving and they were able to stop antibiotics, stop constant monitoring and focus on feeding. On the Thursday we were told they had her cultured blood results back and they showed Rhinovirus, which is just the common cold, completely unavoidable with a 2-year-old who was at a nursery at home too!
“No one could understand how she got so sick from the common cold. The following day the doctor came for daily rounds and told me Emily's cultured lumbar puncture results came back and showed she had Parechovirus. I must have had some look on my face because she very quickly explained that Emily had picked up this virus from somewhere and it had got into her spinal fluid and resulted in viral meningitis.
“Since then she has been discharged from cardiology with an innocent heart murmur and had her hormone levels checked, but apart from that, she is thriving! At nearly 6-months-old, she's smashing her milestones and is generally a very happy baby. We never take anything for granted now and are never afraid to ask for a second opinion. I have become overly protective of both my kids, more so of Emily, but that can't be helped considering everything we've been through in such a short period of time.”