Henry's story

10th June 2016

Three-year-old Leeds youngster Henry seemed  fine when he came home from preschool, but soon after going to bed that evening he complained of a tummy ache

Henry W

The next morning he was breathing strangely and rushed to hospital. But meningitis had already taken hold of the dinosaur-loving Henry and his parents had to face the awful decision to turn his ventilator off. Dad Mark tells their story.

“Henry was our only son and younger brother of Tilly. He had celebrated his third birthday in October and had just started preschool on 5 January.  Henry was a very bright little boy who was fascinated by dinosaurs. He would tell us a Brachiosaurus was a herbivore and a Pterodactyl ate fish.  He had a dinosaur themed bedroom with a picture wall.”

“On Wednesday 20 January 2016 my wife Vicky and I collected Henry from preschool. He was excited because he had got a sticker for helping to tidy up. I went to work at 3pm. Vicky and Henry met Tilly when school finished and went home for tea.”

“Tilly was teaching Henry to sit cross legged ready for school the next day. She took a picture and sent it to me at work. Henry ate his supper and went to bed at 7.30pm. He was perfectly fine. About an hour later he shouted that he had a tummy ache. Vicky gave him some Calpol as he had a temperature.” 

“At around 9.30pm Henry said that he felt sick. Vicky took him to the bathroom where he vomited. She comforted him and he went to sleep on her chest. I came home at 11pm and shortly afterwards he was sick again. We cleaned him up and gave him some more Calpol as he was still hot. Vicky went to sleep in Henry's bed, as she had to be up early for work. I took Henry into our bed and he fell asleep next to me.”

Breathing strangely

“At 5am I woke to find Henry breathing strangely. I tried to wake him but he wouldn't respond. I scooped him up but he was floppy, so I shouted for Vicky to call an ambulance and took him downstairs. The ambulance responder arrived in 90 seconds. Henry was still trying to breathe and had a pulse but he was unconscious.”

“I thought he had a chest infection but couldn't understand why he wouldn't wake up. He had no rash. The ambulance arrived and I went to hospital with him, together with the paramedic. They had begun to ventilate him by now.”

“When we arrived at Leeds General Infirmary the staff began to try and stabilise Henry. Within 20 minutes the Consultant told me to tell Vicky to come straight away as Henry was unlikely to make it. I couldn't accept what he was saying. I felt like I was in a TV drama playing a part and tried to think what things I should say. I was convinced that any minute they would call me over to say he was coming around and everything was going to be okay.”

“That never happened.”

“They spent the next few hours trying to stabilise him so that they could conduct tests for brain activity. A CT scan had already shown his brain had swollen so much they couldn't safely conduct a lumbar puncture to test for the cause of his illness. The first test was conducted at 2.10pm, which was later recorded as the time of his death.”

Hand and foot prints

“After further tests we had to decide what clothes we would choose to dress our baby boy in for the last time. I got a lift home and collected some dinosaur underpants (he had recently stopped wearing pull ups), monster pyjamas, his dressing gown and some socks to keep his feet warm.  Tilly took some hand and foot prints, helped by one of the nurses.“

“We washed Henry and carefully dressed him in his things. We clipped his dummy onto his dressing gown and put his comfort blanket in his hand. He never slept without them. We tucked a toy frog he liked into his pocket and then Tilly kissed him good night for the last time. We then gave our consent for the ventilator to be turned off. A short time later our son had gone.“

“We kissed and cuddled him before saying goodbye. He looked peaceful throughout, just as if he were sleeping.”

“A few days later it was confirmed that Henry had died from meningitis caused by Haemophilus Influenzae type F. We were told he would have been beyond help by the time he had first vomited, as this was the result of his brain swelling, but if he had taken him to hospital they would probably have sent us home as he had no indication of serious illness.”

Dinosaur stickers

“Henry's funeral service was held on 5 February. Tilly helped to decorate his white casket with colourful dinosaur stickers and she read out a letter she had written to her brother. We had no real understanding of the signs and symptoms of meningitis prior to Henry becoming unwell and due to him having no rash we assumed he had a sickness bug which was going around at the time.”

“Henry is irreplaceable, a unique little character, so wanted and so loved. He will always be a part of our family. We talk of him every day, as though he was still with us. I don't think we will ever fully accept he has gone. The enormity of what has happened is too great.”

“Meningitis Now has helped with information and offered counselling. We’re determined Henry’s death will not be in vain and that we can help them with awareness and fundraising to fight this cruel disease.”