Our baby girl Emily was born in 2009. She was 2 weeks overdue, so we were keen to meet her! However, within 3 hours of her birth she started to display symptoms suggesting that all was not well. She began grunting. Her skin was mottled. She was whisked away to SCBU.
Some hours later we were advised by the paediatricans that Emily was very poorly and would need to be transferred to Addenbrookes Hospital, some 50 miles away. At this stage, it was not known what was wrong but the doctors suspected a bacterial infection so they began administering antibiotics.
The ANTS ambulance was summoned and whilst awaiting its arrival to transfer Emily to Addenbrookes, the doctors attempted to incubate Emily. However, this procedure did not go to plan. It took 3 hours, numerous paediatricians and the assistance of a senior anaesthetist. They had to keep halting the procedure as Emily was distressed. Those hours were incredibly hard for my husband and I. There are only so many cups of tea one can consume, so many tears that can be shed before it sinks in that the nightmare is real and that tea and tears ain’t gonna fix it. I never want to feel that fear or see those tears again.
Emily was eventually ventilated and once satisfied that she was stable enough to transfer, the ANTS team took her to Addenbrookes. We followed by car. It was 3am and my father-in-law took us. It’s amazing the lengths that families go to in times of crisis!
Once at Addenbrookes, we were taken into a side room and told that our baby girl was very unwell and that her chances of survival were in the balance. Emily was clenching her fists and lip-smacking; signs of potential brain damage. We were allowed to see her in NICU. All the other babies in there were premature babies. So tiny, so fragile. Born too soon. Emily, at 6lb 11oz and born at 42 weeks, looked huge by comparison but they told us she was the sickest baby in NICU. Tests revealed that her body was being attacked by overwhelming sepsis. They suspected meningitis too, but thankfully a lumbar puncture revealed that she was clear of meningitis. It was at Addenbrookes that it was established that Emily’s sepsis was caused by Group B Strep. At no time during my pregnancy had GBS ever been mentioned. We had no idea that our little girl was at risk from a bacteria that I carried unknowingly.
So then it became a waiting game – waiting to see if the antibiotics had been administered in time to halt the septicaemia. The doctors referred to “BenPen and Gen”: BenzylPenicillin and Gentamicin – the antibiotics upon which our daughter’s life relied. Our lives were thrown into turmoil. We had a 3 year old son at home being looked after by Grandparents and sisters. My husband dealt with practicalities; organising food, accommodation, clean clothes. I struggled with the emotional and physical after-effects of childbirth and stayed close to Emily.
To add to the drama, our feisty little girl, having endured an incredibly difficult insertion of the breathing tube, managed to self-extubate! Fortunately, she was strong enough to go onto CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). After a few more days in NICU, she turned a corner and was well enough to go to a ward where I was able to feed her. A milestone!
As Emily recovered from the sepsis we were transferred back to our local hospital, where we had to spend another 2 weeks to complete the course of antibiotics. Incredibly, Emily fully recovered from the septicaemia. There was no obvious brain damage. We found out only in 2015 that Emily suffered some minor hearing loss as a result of the Gentamicin, but has no other long term effects from her battle with GBS.