Abbie’s story

13th March 2016

An unusual cry alerted Gillian Marshall that something was not quite right with her 13-day-old baby girl

AbbieM letterbox
Despite advice from the nurse that she should wait for an appointment later that day, Gillian trusted her instincts and took Abbie May straight to A & E.

Within minutes of arriving at A & E, Gillian realised something was seriously wrong. She tells their story here. 

“On 3 May 2013, Robert and I were lucky enough to celebrate the birth of our second gorgeous daughter, Abbie May Marshall. She was a planned C section and we had no complications during her birth.”

“Whilst I was pregnant I found out I was a strep B carrier. The midwife told me not to Goggle it but of course I did. I found out how dangerous it could be for the baby and possibly lead to sepsis, meningitis or even death. So it was on my mind throughout the pregnancy.”

“On day 13 after Abbie’s birth she woke as usual through the night for a feed. But at around 4:30am I noticed she was making a whimpering noise. If anything, it was like a dog whimper.”

“At 8am I phoned the health centre and spoke to the nurse - I said I was going to take her to A & E. She thought I shouldn't as I would go up and be waiting around to be seen. Instead, she would give me an appointment at 11am. I got off the phone and decided to go against the advice and my mother-in-law took me up.”

Abbie was critical

“On arrival I was taken into a triage room. Abbie was so small and young all the nurses were coming in to see her. However, within minutes the mood changed.”

“Abbie had three doctors standing over her and the nurses around me were now crying. I was told to contact my husband, who was an hour away working in Glasgow.”

“The last thing I did with Abbie before I was asked to leave was to hold her whilst the doctors drilled into her legs. It was described to me that they were putting in an antibiotic which would act like domestos in her to kill the bacteria.”

“Once my husband arrived we were sat down and told Abbie was critical, she had late onset strep B. She had developed septicaemia and suspected meningitis. I knew how critical it was when the doctor asked would we like a minister or priest present.”

She was like a porcelain doll

“The crash team came from Yorkhill Hospital to Inverclyde Royal Hospital - it took them over six hours to stabilise Abbie for transportation.”

“We were allowed to go in and see her one last time before she went. She was lying on an adult bed with a bear hugger over her. They had taken a nappy out of my hand bag and put it over her face to keep heat in. She was like a wee porcelain doll.”

“The anaesthetist stood over her and told us he was unable to bag her because he had never worked on someone so small.  She was then taken by ambulance and we had to follow 30 minutes later.”

It was meningitis

“When we arrived at Yorkhill Abbie was already in ICU. That night we were told it was meningitis, and later she developed encephalitis.”

“During the next 10 days in ICU Abbie experienced bleeding in the brain, she had seizures and also had a blood clot where her central line went into her brain. She had a lumbar puncture but for a baby of her size they had to fold her in half to open up the spine. Abbie also had several CT scans and MRIs.”

“Despite this, I always remember when her own breathing took over from the machine, something we never thought would happen. I remember holding her for the first time after she was taken ill - over a week had passed. She was still connected to the life support machine and despite her being the strongest person I had ever meet, I felt she was the most fragile thing I'd ever touched.”

She is a wee miracle

“Abbie then spent a further seven weeks in hospital. We learned how to inject her to break up the blood clot. Which we did this for six months at home and she took medication for her seizures.”

“Her wee hands, arms, legs and feet are covered in scars from the cannulas going in. Every day or so her vein would collapse and a new vein would have to be found. However, she is a wee miracle.”

“Abbie lost no limbs through this whole ordeal. Her hearing has been given the all clear.”

“She has been left with hydrocephalus as a result of meningitis. Her CF fluid in her brain is thicker so doesn't drain as well causing her ventricles to be slightly enlarged. She gets this monitored yearly with an MRI. As of yet, and hopefully never, they haven't seen the need for a shunt but we have to constantly be aware and monitor her cranial pressure.”

“Abbie is now a very active, friendly and funny two and a half year old. She is meeting all her milestones and will start nursery after the summer holidays.”

Raising awareness

“We are taking part in the 30th anniversary zipline challenge as we want to help all those families Meningitis Now help. This may be families who have kids who have lost limbs or maybe a whole family who have had to learn sign language to communicate with their wee one.”

“We have fortunately not had to use any of these services but we know how close we came.”

“We also want to support Meningitis Now’s campaigns and awareness raising of vaccines, such as the Men B vaccine extension.”

“One of the main things I want to do is raise awareness of symptoms - Abbie had none. People talk of grunts but she wasn't doing that; being off food - well Abbie took her bottle. But more importantly is the rash. Abbie had septicaemia and no rash ever appeared. Don't wait for a rash, go with your instinct, if your child is unwell you know best.”

“It honestly feels like we are the luckiest family in the world with our two beautiful girls. Thank you so much for reading this.”

Signs and symptoms children

Trust your instincts

If you’re worried about meningitis, trust your instincts and seek medical help immediately. If you have had medical advice and are still worried, get medical help again as early diagnosis can be difficult. Know the signs and symptoms
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