Before you leave the maternity unit, the midwives go through some things with you that are really important like make sure you put the baby at the bottom of the cot so they don’t wriggle down, make sure you only use cool boiled water and cotton pads to wipe their bottom, don’t use any products in the bath… they even tell you to do your pelvic floor muscles; not ONCE did someone verbally tell me to get a thermometer and check my baby’s temperature and not once in my pregnancy did a medical professional explain to me about Strep B.
On Monday morning at 3:47am on 28th January 2019, we welcomed our 2nd little boy, Jax into the world at Russel’s Hall Hospital in Dudley, West Midlands. The midwives who looked after me were beyond amazing. The birth was text book, very quick during the active labour stages and we were thrilled that he was finally here. Niko, our 3 year old was so excited for the arrival of his little brother; we couldn’t wait to get him home so they could meet each other for the first time.
We had decided to keep Niko off nursery so his chances of coming home with any illnesses or getting Chicken Pox was lowered. We were frightened that the baby would catch it too. When Niko was 3 weeks old, he had viral meningitis, so we went to every length to make sure this didn’t happen a second time, even though we knew there wasn’t much you could do as parents to prevent something like this… but we were damn well going to try! So we had no visitors apart from my parents, no children around the house and had anti-bacterial hand gel in every room. We were so careful and everyone was very supportive.
On Thursday morning somehow Niko had gotten a water infection and instead of wee, there was blood in the toilet. It scared us so much, so Brett, my Husband, rushed him down the walk in centre for antibiotics. They assured us this would be gone within a day and he would be OK. I was an emotional wreck not being able to go with him as I felt I was abandoning him… ‘Mummy Guilt’. Throughout the day he seemed to get better and he continued cuddling and getting to know his little brother; it melted my heart seeing them together. Niko was going to be the best big brother.
Then, around 6pm, spots started coming out on Niko’s face and I just knew straight away that it was Chicken Pox. I just couldn’t believe our bad luck. We phoned 111 to see what we should do because of having a newborn in the house, so Brett had to take him back down the hospital to have it confirmed. The doctor there told us point blank that Jax would catch this too as newborns have such a low immunity so I was beside myself… again. I couldn’t stand the thought of my little baby catching this as I had heard it could be potentially dangerous for newborns. The advice was to keep them apart as much as possible, so then the segregation began. I stayed up stairs with Jax while my Husband took care of Niko downstairs. I was so upset they couldn’t be around each other; all I wanted was for them to bond. We decided to keep a very close eye on Jax’s temperature in case it spiked.
The next morning, Niko woke up weeing blood again. This time it was apparently the Chicken Pox in his bladder coming out in his wee, as there weren’t any germs in his urine anymore. I was relieved it wasn’t anything more serious. All I wanted to do was hug him and be with him, but the doctors had advised us to stay apart because of the new baby. Later that day, I noticed Jax’s eye had become a bit sticky. I wasn’t too worried at this point because Niko had had a sticky eye when he was newborn and being a newborn photographer, it was something I saw a lot. Usually it happens because of a blocked tear duct, so I put breast milk on it or cool boiled water and cleaned it. I continued to take his temperature every few hours.
On the Saturday, it was Jax’s 5 day check up. His eye was much worse now and I was positive that it was something more serious. I had seen sticky eye so many times but this looked so much more sinister. The midwives told us to go to the walk in centre to get it checked so we did. The nurse took one look at it and told us it was conjunctivitis. She didn’t seem concerned at all so I relaxed a little. She told me it was probably because he had pooed in my waters when he was born. She did no other check up on him so I assumed he was fine and the eye drops would clear his eye up over the next few days.
On the Sunday afternoon, Jax became irritable and fretful. He just wasn’t himself which I know sounds crazy as I am talking about a 6 day old baby, but I just KNEW something wasn’t right. I told Brett that I was worried, so I continued to do his temp, but he didn’t have a fever, so I thought maybe it was just wind he was struggling to get out; he didn’t have a rash or anything. I took it again around 9:30pm, fed him and took him to bed and it was the same as before but I just had a gut instinct that something was wrong. An hour later I felt his head and he felt normal, but then I touched his chest and it felt very hot. I took his temperature again and it was 38.4. I changed his nappy, fed him again then took it once more to make sure and it was the same. I immediately called my parents to come and look after Niko and we rushed down the hospital because I knew that a fever in a newborn could be life threatening.
I couldn’t believe we were back in A&E AGAIN! Luckily there was no one waiting but we were still made to wait twenty minutes before seeing a doctor. I just kept thinking ‘surely every minute counts?’ Finally, after what seemed like hours, a doctor called us in and within 5 minutes she was ringing triage. We were rushed round to another unit where we had to answer more questions about Jax and what his symptoms were. He still had a fever and even though they were very calm I could hear the concern in their voices.
Suddenly there were lots of people there, nurses and a doctor trying to put a cannula in his arm to take bloods and to get antibiotics into him. They tried both hands and both arms but they couldn’t seem to get it in. His veins were ‘wiggly’ and the doctor seemed to be getting really stressed out. Jax was screaming and there was blood on the sheets. My Husband just couldn’t bear to watch and I sat in the corner crying wishing I could just hold him. They had to call down a second doctor to do the cannula after quite a few tries and eventually it was in, the bloods were taken and the antibiotics were administrated. They also gave him a small dose of paracetamol to try and bring his temp down.
I just remember holding him and watching him as he looked up at me, almost willing me to take the pain away. He was making such funny noises like he was in pain and it just broke my heart. How can someone so little you grew from scratch be going through all of this at not even a week old? The next thing was an X-Ray to check his chest. After that they took us up to the children’s ward where I held him all night. I knew it was bad when we were finally alone and my Husband broke down in tears and just kept thanking me for taking his temperature. He held me so tight for minutes that felt like hours and it was then I realised that having that thermometer, had saved his life.
I had never felt so alone in that hospital ward once Brett had left. I had just given birth exactly a week ago and was trying to recover myself and suddenly, my tiny baby, who hadn’t experienced much of anything in this world was lying in my arms limp and obviously in pain. I was already emotional so now, as you can imagine, the tears just wouldn’t stop falling. Every time I looked at his tiny face or his tiny hand wrapped around my finger my heart felt so heavy in my chest, I just cried and cried.
A few hours later, around 10am, the Doctors came to see me and told me his white blood cell level was much higher than normal which meant that he did have an infection and they would have to do the the dreaded lumbar puncture to check it hadn’t spread to his brain. This really was the thing of nightmares. When our other son was poorly, he’d had this procedure done too, so it was the one thing we were absolutely dreading. I remember just standing outside of the room, three years before listening to him scream and scream as they cant give the babies anything for the pain. They told me ‘You wont want to be in here for this… he wont remember but you will never, ever forget it.’
My Husband came back to the ward and Jax was taken from my arms, fast asleep, to a room down the corridor. We waited in the room for him to come back and it just felt like forever. Finally he was returned to me, almost as he was taken, like nothing had happened and I was just so grateful for my own sanity that I hadn’t had to experience the awful sound of him screaming and crying like I had done with his brother… but at the same time an overwhelming amount of guilt that I wasn’t there holding his hand. That day and night they monitored him closely, injected more antibiotics and gave him a small dose of paracetamol again; thankfully his temp started coming down. In the early hours of the morning he had another blood test where they squeezed the blood from his heel.
The doctors were happy to let us go on the evening on home leave because his temp had stayed below 38 for 24 hours. We were so happy we could finally take him home but we still had to come back every day for his antibiotics until further notice. There were lots of different opinions about how long he should stay on the antibiotics for… some doctors were happy with 5 days, others 7 and some 14. It was decided that he would have to have a few more blood tests to make sure the infection was leaving his system before they could decide.
Two days into the home leave, the Doctor told us that they had found bacteria in his spinal fluid and that he had contracted bacterial meningitis. I was so shocked. How on Earth could he have caught this? I did a private Strep B test at 37 weeks, as in the UK they do not test pregnant women, and the result was negative. I do know that the result can change from week to week, but there isn’t much more you can do but to test yourself as best as you can without medical assistance. We caught it so early that no bacteria grew on the cultures they took, so she told us that they would probably never find out exactly which bacteria it was. To this day, we still don’t know what made Jax so poorly. They also told us that it would have been the same bacteria that had caused the infection in his eye.
Finally after 9 days, his white blood cell count was back to normal, so they took the cannula out and stopped treatment. It was such a happy day for not only us, but all our family and friends, to know that he had been so lucky to have survived such an ordeal and we were finally taking him home without a bandage on his arm.
Thank you to Russel’s Hall Hospital Children’s Unit for being so amazing with Jax and all the other children they treat on a daily basis and thank you to our amazing family and friends for giving us more support and love we could ever ask for.