She’d had a bug. The usual kiddie thing. Vomiting, diorhea and a temperature. the Doctor had twice reassured us there was nothing to worry about. Just give her calpol and make sure she drinks water and she’ll be fine. “Are you sure? She’s all floppy and has blue lips......”
It was the vomit. She was lying in her own sick, but not crying. Just silent, vacant, floppy. At first they thought it was just dehydration due to the sickness. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
“Hello my name’s Joanna and I’m a paediatric consultant. I am sorry to say this but your little girl is really very poorly”
“Err yeah, she’s really dehydrated, right? But when you say really poorly what do you mean? Like, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is unthinkable, where are we?”
My honest expectation at that moment was to hear a ‘6’ or maybe a ‘7’. But this isn’t scores on Strictly. When I heard 10 (or was it 11?) I think I just stared in disbelief.
“You need to prepare yourself for the worst”
This is not a conversation any parent should have.
She was taken into resus. Adult resus, because they didn’t have time to worry about where, and she was barely conscious anyway. She looks tiny on the bed.
“I think she has Sepsis. We need to intubate her. In itself that carries a risk. I am sorry to ask but I need you to sign some forms for us allowing us to proceed. If we don’t, its very likely she wont make it, but if we do that carries a risk in itself”
What does that mean.
“Sepsis is a poisoning and her body’s immune response is working overdrive which means its attacking itself and her organs are starting to struggle. That means we need to take over her breathing for her as she’s very weak. Then we need to try to get a line into her femoral artery to get some medicine into her. All her other veins have collapsed’
I think those scenes will be forever burned in my retina. I can recall the image at will. Jenny couldn't watch. I remember thinking these were the last moments of my little girls life so I wanted to watch. Jenny couldn't even begin to go near the reality that her daughter was dying. I remember thinking that I had to be strong for both of us.
A private room
PICU. Sounds like a Japanese cartoon character, but it stands for Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. Lola was transferred there at about 3am. It does what it says on the tin. Intensive care. A nurse was with Lola every minute of every hour that ticked by. Watching, observing. The machines. Banks of them. Beeps.
We started to feel reassured. She hadn’t died, was in the right place, getting the treatment. Lola was in a room of her own with all this going on around just her.
“She’s made it through the night and I think we have stabilised her but now the fight really begins. We now have to wait and hope the antibiotics start to work. You must not assume she is out of the woods”
A few days later, when Lola was moved onto the PICU ward with all the other very very sick kids, we learned that the room she’d been in was known as the ‘death room’. It’s where the poorliest of the poorly go. Where they often go to die.
Fluid retention. Barely recognisable, as though she’d been in a boxing match. Then the swelling under her arm began. An infection site. Streptococcus B. This would be a problem later.
The ventilator kept its rhythm as though blowing her up. Days ticked by. I went home to get clothes for us, for her. I walked up the stairs, her nursery on the left. Empty. That choking, throat closing feeling. The realisation that she might never again be standing up in that cot jumping up and down. I struggled to collect some things. Her favourite lion.
Start to breathe. Lola first, off the ventilator, then us. “The critical risk has subsided, I think she will be fine, but, we will need to monitor carefully for any organ damage”
Strep B invasive infection is a notifiable disease to Public Health authorities so Lola was transferred to this isolation ward. She had to have an operation under general anaesthetic to drain the infection site which was massive. All this just a week after being in a critical condition.
And then she came home...
We were lucky. 2 weeks from a near-death experience to coming home.
Neither we, nor the GP, nor the first doctors at hospital knew to think of Sepsis. Only for the knowledge of one doctor, the quick actions and a hole lot of luck is Lola very much alive. We all know to look out for meningitis. We should be able to say the same for Sepsis. That’s the work the Sepsis Trust are doing. That’s why I want to help them.