'The Doctor in Thailand Said It Was a Cold - but Then Her Lips Turned Blue'
"I instinctively knew something was seriously wrong."
Lilliana was just seven months old when she contracted a killer disease in paradise.
We were enjoying our first family holiday on the tropical paradise of Phuket, Thailand, when my seven-month-old daughter Lilliana came down with a temperature.
A local doctor diagnosed her with a cold. But in the shower I noticed Lilli’s fingertips and lips were bright blue. The skin over her organs had also turned blue.
I instinctively knew something was seriously wrong.
Wrapping Lilli up in a towel, I ran into the street screaming: ‘My baby is dying, someone help!’
Lilli’s father, my parents and some friends who were holidaying with us were out at breakfast. They returned moments later to find me hysterical with Lilli limp in my arms.
We got to the local hospital, but they didn’t have the facilities to help us. Lilli – who was convulsing by that point – was rushed to a larger hospital by ambulance under police escort.
I have never been so terrified. But that was only the beginning..
Lillie’s heart was hammering out 230 beats a minute and her temperature rose to 42 degrees celsius. When I lifted up her blanket, I saw an angry purple rash ravaging her tiny body.
By that point my baby was hardly recognisable; Her whole body was purple and bloated, and her skin was melting off.
On the third day, Lilli’s gangrenous right leg burst open. Tests revealed she was suffering from meningococcal septicaemia, which had turned her blood toxic.
I was so traumatised my parents prevented me from going in to see Lilli for fear I was making her more distressed.
Even with antibiotics it was touch and go. At one point, Lilli’s best odds of survival were 30 per cent – and that’s if her arms and legs were amputated.
But as long as she lived I didn’t care if my baby had no hands, arms or legs. I told the doctors to do whatever they must to save her.
Ultimately they decided to take a wait and see approach. Thankfully, it paid off and after an agonising three weeks, Lilli was stable enough to be transferred to a larger hospital in Bangkok.
Doctors there spent hours and hours scraping the infected flesh from Lilli’s legs in a desperate bid to save them. But that wasn’t all my precious baby had to contend with.
As a result of the sepsis, she was suffering from multiple organ failure. She needed O negative blood and plasma every six hours to survive.
The hospital didn’t have enough blood and I wasn’t allowed to donate mine because I hadn’t been in the country for long enough.
I couldn’t let my baby die now!
Clutching at straws, I put a call out on social media asking for help.
Incredibly, within 24 hours, a thousand people had donated blood. People were turning up the hospital non-stop and I even had people from England and America offering to fly over so they could donate too.
The outpouring of support was so humbling. People prayed for us all over the world. And thankfully, those prayers were answered.
Finally, in December last year, Lilli was well enough to be flown back to Australia. She was admitted to Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
The doctors were amazed by her strength. Even though she was having surgery every two days, Lilli was determined to sit up in bed, then she started trying to crawl. Then she started dancing.
Even when she was really sick, Lilli would try to smile at us. I was so proud.
Despite everything she’d been through, my clever girl was walking at 11 months. By her first birthday she was running and she’s never stopped since.
Lillie is now 20 months and she is absolutely thriving.
The last 12 months have been a rollercoaster but we share Lilli’s story to raise awareness of the symptoms of meningococcal disease and sepsis. We also want people to understand how important travel insurance is. Our provider, Zoom, paid out over $113k to help us in our time of need.
Children are prone to meningitis
We’re glad Lilli has made it through her extremely difficult ordeal.
But parents should be aware that children are especially susceptible to meningitis. This is because your little one’s immune system isn’t fully developed, yet.
Viral meningitis is very common and easily treated. However, bacterial meningitis can be fatal if it isn’t detected early, and may lead to septic shock.
Here are some of the most important signs of meningitis to take note of in your child before it becomes dangerous.
- Abrupt fever – shivering, constant complaints of cold hands and feet
- Unable to straighten neck
- Sensitivity to light
- Unbearable headaches
- Dizziness and double vision
- Deep red rash – doesn’t disappear if you look through a glass of water over it
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