Ten-month-old girl loses her life to meningitis, hours after taking her first steps: Heartbroken mother, 26, urges for age at which vaccine is given to be lowered to prevent similar deaths
- Rebekah Watson proudly watched her daughter Lily hit the crucial milestone
- Just hours later, Lily was rushed to hospital after her lips turned blue
- Unresponsive, Lily suffered six cardiac arrests with doctors being unable to help
- She was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis W post mortem
- Ms Watson is petitioning for a meningitis vaccine to be given to babies
A heartbroken mother has revealed the devastating moment she lost her 10-month-old daughter to meningitis just one day after seeing her take her first steps.
Rebekah Watson, 26, from Doncaster, was bursting with pride after watching her baby girl, Lily Teale, smiling and giggling as she hit the crucial milestone in November last year.
Just hours later, Lily was rushed to hospital after her lips turned blue and she was unresponsive.
After suffering six cardiac arrests, doctors told Ms Watson and her partner Lloyd Teale, 27, there was nothing more they could do, with the youngster only being diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis W following a post mortem.
Lily’s mother said: ‘The pain was unbearable. She’d been absolutely fine just the night before. We’d lost our little girl in a matter of hours.’
Ms Watson, whose Facebook post about her loss has been shared thousands of times around the world, is petitioning to lower the age of the MenACWY vaccine from 14 years old to three months, believing it could have protected her daughter.
Ten-month-old Rebekah Watson died from meningitis the day after she took her first steps
Lily can be seen smiling and giggling as she hit the crucial milestone last November
Her parents Rebekah Watson and Lloyd Teale (pictured) said the pain is ‘unbearable’
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What is Meningitis B?
Meningococcal group B bacteria is a serious cause of life-threatening infections, including meningitis and blood poisoning, worldwide and the leading infectious killer of babies and young children in the UK.
There are 12 known groups of meningococcal bacteria, and group B (MenB) is responsible for about 90% of meningococcal infections in the UK.
Meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal group B bacteria can affect people of any age, but is most common in babies and young children.
In the past 20 years, between 500 and 1,700 people every year, mainly babies and young children, have suffered from MenB disease, with around 1 in 10 dying from the infection.
Many of those who survive suffer permanent disability, such as amputation, brain damage and epilepsy.
‘You don’t question doctors’
Lily, who born in January 2017, took her first steps on November 21 with no sign of her being unwell.
Ms Watson, who is on leave from her job at a scaffolding firm, said: ‘She was such a happy baby. Every parent thinks their child is perfect, but Lily really was. She never threw tantrums, she always slept and ate well. She was constantly smiling.
‘She was such a pretty baby, too. Whenever we went out, people were just drawn to her. They’d always want to stop and chat, and she’d love the fuss.’
Yet, in the early hours of late November, Lily woke up crying, vomiting and with a high temperature.
After checking her over, Ms Watson gave Lily some Calpol and ibuprofen, before calling the non-emergency NHS number 111.
She said: ‘I described the symptoms and they told me to keep giving her medicine, but to take her to doctors if she hadn’t improved within 12 hours.’
Ms Watson managed to get Lily back to sleep for around an hour, before she woke again as her normal self, happily playing around the house.
Yet, as the morning progressed, Lily’s temperature spiked again, prompting Ms Watson to take her to a doctor.
She said: ‘That was when she got really poorly. She was sick in the waiting room and seemed very lethargic.
‘Lloyd was at work and my family were all at my grandad’s 70th birthday, so I was on my own with her.
‘We eventually got called in and they said she probably had a sickness bug like gastroenteritis.
‘I told them Lily had tonsillitis a few weeks earlier and asked them to check her throat, too, which they did, but they didn’t seem worried.
‘You don’t question doctors and I really thought, after having their reassurance, that everything would be fine.’
Lily showed no signs of being unwell she took her first steps across her living room
Just hours later, Lily was rushed to hospital after her lips turned blue and she was unresponsive
‘She was completely unresponsive’
Back home, Lily briefly seemed fine once again, before dramatically deteriorating that afternoon.
After the toddler developed diarrhoea, Ms Watson was changing her nappy when she noticed a mottled rash around Lily’s groin.
She said: ‘It wasn’t the typical rash you associate with meningitis, the one you see in the glass test.
‘It was more veiny and purple. Lily’s lips and hands then turned blue, so I phoned an ambulance right away.
‘By the time they arrived, she was completely unresponsive. I was absolutely petrified.’
‘Lily went into cardiac arrest six times’
Phoning Lloyd, who had been at work, to break the news, Rebekah raced to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where Lily was taken straight to the resuscitation area as her anxious family gathered to wait for more information.
At this point, medics were unsure what was happening, but planned to stabilise the infant before blue-lighting her to the more specialist Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Tragically, she did not make it that far.
Ms Watson said: ‘Lily went into cardiac arrest six times, until eventually doctors said there was nothing more they could do. We were totally devastated.’
Tests performed after Lily’s death revealed she had contracted meningococcal meningitis W, but doctors are unable to determine its cause.
Doctors were unsure of what was wrong with Lily after she suffered six cardiac arrests
They told her devastated parents there was nothing more they could do to save their daughter
Lily suffered none of the classic meningitis symptoms, such as rash that does not fade
‘Lily never had any of the classic symptoms’
Lily’s funeral, where mourners all dressed in her favourite colour red, was held at Rose Hill Cemetery in Doncaster, followed by a private service for family.
Ms Watson said: ‘We all let off balloons in her memory. I had her cremated, and she’s at home with me, but some of her ashes have been scattered at the church too, so the rest of the family have somewhere to go to be with her.’
Still waiting for the inquest into Lily’s death, Ms Watson hopes it will provide her with some answers about whether or not the meningitis could have been detected earlier.
She said: ‘Lily never had any of the classic symptoms. In my mind, I hear meningitis and think of the rash and the glass test, but all she had was sickness and a snotty nose.
‘The hospital staff were amazing and did all they could, but it was simply too late. I can’t help but feel as if this could have been picked up earlier that day. If it had, maybe Lily could have been saved.’
Lily’s mother said the youngster had her whole life ahead of her
She believes Lily could have been saved if she had a vaccine only offered to 14-year-olds
At Lily’s funeral, balloons were released in her memory in her favourite colour red
‘She had her whole life ahead of her’
As a focus for their grief, Ms Watson is fundraising for Meningitis Now and has raised around £8,000 in Lily’s memory so far.
She said: ‘Campaigning and fundraising are the only things I can do to carry on my daughter’s name.
‘At the moment, the ACWY vaccine is offered to teenagers at around 14 and upwards. The strain it protects against is most common among university students, but meningitis can affect anyone.
‘We don’t want this to happen to anyone else, so if we can just get one parent to read up on meningitis and potentially save a life, we are keeping Lily’s name alive.
‘I also want to urge others to keep pushing if they suspect something is wrong. You know your child better than anyone – better than doctors even.
‘Lily was only 10 months old. She had her whole life ahead of her and losing her has left a massive hole in all our lives.’
According to the charity Meningitis Now, meningococcal meningitis W is historically the rarest strain of the disease. Families wanting younger children to be protected have to pay for the vaccine privately.
Ms Watson said: ‘I didn’t even know a private vaccination was an option, otherwise I would have paid for it.
‘I want more parents to be aware that their children may not necessarily be protected against all strains of meningitis.
‘The vaccine should be offered as standard when babies get the rest of their jabs. I don’t want any other families to go through this.’
Sign Ms Watson’s petition here.
Find more information on meningitis here.
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