Written by her dad, John
I remember it as if it were only yesterday. That low grunting sound that my 9 week old daughter, Amelia, was making on a sunny Sunday.
She’d had a little cold for a couple of days so my partner Michelle and I had been keeping a close eye on her, but it was on that Sunday when we started to get a bit concerned. Whilst she slept on me that low grunting started. I knew that something wasn’t right so I woke her up, but she wouldn’t open her eyes properly and felt like a rag-doll. Seeing a temperature of 40oC, we immediately drove to nearby King George’s Hospital in Essex.
We had no idea what was wrong with Amelia, but when the triage nurse in the Children’s A&E took one look at her and subtly called for help, it quickly became clear that our daughter was very sick. At that moment Michelle and I both felt fear like never before. Seeing our perfect baby girl with several pairs of hands all over her with bits of machinery and wires all criss-crossing over her tiny body is an image that I’ll never forget. We felt numb, completely helpless and although I asked what they thought was wrong, it wasn’t until later that the word ‘meningitis’ was mentioned.
Amelia’s condition worsened in the following hours. She suffered several seizures and was moved to the resuscitation room in the main A&E. The doctors were now almost certain that Amelia had contracted meningitis and they had begun treating her with antibiotics to help fight off any infection as quickly as possible. Amelia was also fighting the infection herself, which was probably causing the seizures. Time flew by and before I knew it, we’d been there for nearly 10 hours and the situation looked very bleak. With our family there, many prayers were made.
It was decided to move Amelia to a specialist intensive care unit that would give her the best possible chance of survival. The care that she’d received at King George’s had been absolutely incredible but they could do no more. The CATS team (Children’s Acute Transport Service) were called and quickly arrived, and suddenly there were two paramedics by Amelia’s side with a very strange ‘pod on wheels’. We watched as the calm CATS team carefully prepared our baby for the most important journey of her short life, constantly explaining everything to Michelle and I. I’d never seen calmness under pressure like it before, it was so impressive.
Just a quick 18 minute drive after we kissed her goodbye, we were taken to the family room based in St Mary’s PICU. We both sat there in silence, crying and clinging onto each other waiting and praying for good news. After the doctor told us that Amelia had been settled into a bed on the ward and had been stabilised, we were given a voucher for a local hotel. A bed, running water, peace and quiet just yards from where our daughter was fighting for her life was a godsend.
Once called at 7am we made our way back to the hospital to see Amelia. She looked so tiny and fragile in the middle of a huge cot with machines surrounding her all bleeping in unison. We were introduced to the nurse that was taking care of her for the next 12 hours and watched as she constantly monitored our baby. How any of the staff are able to do what they do on a daily basis will always astound me, especially when the children’s parents are two feet away, scrutinising their every move. They’re very, very special people.
Michelle and I were by her side the whole time, taking turns to read and talk to her. We also spent time in the waiting room along with the other parents. We all had our moments in there but I think we all felt like we were together. Although we had very mixed feelings seeing parents come and go over time, it gave me great strength and reassurance to know that what the PICU staff were doing was actually working.
We were soon given the news that Amelia had been diagnosed with Group B Streptococcus, a rare form of bacterial meningitis that usually affects newborn babies and often leads to the worst of outcomes. I said that Amelia was undoubtedly in the best possible place and I just knew she was going to get better at that moment. Virtually from then Amelia’s condition improved and it was clear that she was going to survive. Soon she was taken off the ventilator and brought out of sedation, and we’ve never been so happy to hear her cry! Being able to hold, feed, even change her nappy allowed us to feel like parents again.
Over the next weeks Amelia’s progress astounded doctors, and soon she was able to go back to King George’s Hospital. Her MRI scans showed damage to Amelia’s brain, indicating she would have ‘problems’ in the days to years ahead. But now 3 years later Amelia is a very happy and cheeky normal little girl. She’s extremely bright and thus far has shown no after effects as a result of her ordeal. She’s a shining example of the fantastic work that all the staff at St Mary’s and COSMIC do every single day of the year and she’s just one of many, many similar success stories. We will always be in their debt and cannot thank them enough for saving her life.
The level of care that Amelia received right from the start at King George’s, during the transfer with the CATS team, whilst at St. Mary’s and the several outpatient appointments in the two years following her ordeal was nothing short of incredible. Every day that Amelia spent on the PICU, COSMIC took care of Michelle and me. They provided hotel rooms every night and were always around to give us support when we needed it. Without them, the most difficult times of our lives would’ve been so much harder as we wouldn’t have been able to be near our baby girl whilst she battled to stay alive. Words can’t express the level of gratitude we feel and long may COSMIC continue to provide this vital service to parents who find themselves in such devastating situations.
John went on to cycle London to Paris with Team COSMIC in 2012, and will be taking on the London Marathon 2014 for COSMIC! His family are also regular COSMIC Walkers and help us whenever they can!