Some of those closest to us will know that on Easter Sunday this year we felt our world had been turned upside down.
Following our baby girl having her routine vaccinations a couple of days before, she wasn't herself.
She was very clingy, unsettled and just didn't want to be put down. On Easter Saturday I spent most of the day comforting her and this lead into the night.
When in my arms she seemed more settled. Two calls to 111 and the out of hours GP, it was considered that she was just having a 'normal' reaction to her jabs.
She had no other symptoms, no temperature, no rash, nothing too concerning so this made sense.
In the Early hours of Easter Sunday I noticed she didn't want to be placed on her back and her crying had changed. Based on this I was advised by 111 to go to the walk in centre to get her checked. I had started to realise something wasn't right.
More alarming symptoms
On arrival we were seen almost immediately. From leaving home to arriving there she had developed a very high temperature, grey mottled skin and simply wasn't herself. Ten minutes was all it took for these 'more alarming' symptoms to develop.
The GP calmly said to me you need to get to the hospital and need to call 999. I remember I just responded 'ok'. I went into practical mode, I don't even think I reacted.
The ambulance guys arrived. Her temperature had risen further again and they stripped her off. I then noticed a rash developing on her legs. It was non-blanching.
She sounded 'croup-like’ and on initial assessment this is what the ambulance crew thought we were dealing with. So there we went, blue lights all the way to the children's hospital. This is when things changed dramatically.
I was taken to HDU with her and she was absolutely bedside herself by now. Her whole body was mottled; the tiny, tiny, pin prick spots which could quite easily be missed had started to appear in other places.
There were various attempts to insert a cannula; and a urine sample and her stats were becoming increasingly more worrying.
Consultants had to rush to get antibiotics into her system straight away, and then carry out a lumbar puncture. We knew they suspected a serious infection but I didn't want to accept what it was likely to be.
A few hours later and after being admitted to the Paediatric Assessment Unit with what I overheard them say 'a septic baby'; Orla was hooked up to monitors, had a feeding tube inserted and was being pumped with IV antibiotics.
They later told us the first lumber puncture hadn't worked and she needed another. It was heart-breaking hearing her cries again, as they advised us not to be there when they did this procedure. I knew it wasn't very nice, but knew it was essential.
Around 7pm that night after nearly 10 hours of being there, the initial results were back. Her spinal fluid confirmed she had an infection around her brain.
Yes, we were faced with our then 14-week-old baby having to fight Meningitis. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could this happen to us?
Why my baby?
After an already incredibly tough year personally, what had I done to deserve my baby girl going through this? Why my baby? I will never forget that moment for as long as I live.
Now, that all said, the purpose of this is not just to go over how awful it was, but to share what happened with the hope of raising awareness, and also sharing the positive outcome.
Our little fighter is here. She fought, she’s tough and by the next morning she was smiling again.
The feeding tube came out within 24 hours, and after four nights and five days in the Birmingham Children's Hospital - who I have to say are absolutely incredible - she has made a full recovery with no suspected long term effects.
She continued to receive IV antibiotics for seven days, and the course was finished at home while she was looked after by the ‘hospital at home team’.
I cannot thank the NHS enough for the most amazing support and quick responses; from the 111 call, right through to the GP, ambulance, A & E staff, PAU staff, HCAs, Nurses, Consultants and the hospital at home team.
Trust your instincts
They are all amazing and this makes me so, so proud to work for the NHS. It's these things that you ‘don't think will happen to you', that make you realise how lucky we are and how important the NHS are.
Trust your instincts. Whilst knowing the symptoms is very important, they don't always develop as you would expect. Orla’s story is a prime example of that.
Taking her to the GP early that morning and trusting my instincts, is what I believe ensured we weren't looking at a very different outcome.
A few hours longer and they told us it could have been a whole different scenario – that’s something I never want to think about.
The support from our families, medical professionals and friends, is what helped us get through those horrendous few days - and we are very thankful for that.
While this illness is life threatening and can leave devastating effects, Orla is an example that quick action can result in a full recovery.
By sharing our experience we hope to offer some assurance to families going through this. Not all cases end up like ours, but this is happening to families every day and I know they will have the same questions and concerns we had, and wondering what life will be like after dealing with meningitis.
Meningitis has always been a fear of mine since becoming a mummy. I paid privately for Oscar to have the MenB jab as he didn't have it as part of his routine jabs.
Orla has had them now, but it just shows that it comes in various forms and knowing the signs is crucial.
We are so lucky to have two beautiful children, never take anything for granted as you just don't know what is round the corner.