LOOKING at happy, healthy Harrison Grahame today, it is difficult to believe that at just 27 days old, his parents faced the heart-breaking prospect of switching off his life-support machine.
At just four weeks old, Harrison developed Group B streptococcal meningitis and spent a month fighting for his life at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.
He eventually pulled through in what doctors described as a “miraculous recovery” and now parents Kelly and Richard Grahame, of Fambridge Drive, Wickford, are working with the Meningitis Research Foundation to raise awareness of the condition.
Kelly, 37, said: “Those four weeks really were the most terrifying of my life.
“It started when Harrison started making a funny grunting noise and just would not feed.
“I mentioned it to my midwife when he came to visit who said he didn’t like the sound of it and sent us to Basildon A&E.
“We weren’t too concerned – they just checked his vital signs and said everything seemed to be fine.
“They thought he had an infection and wanted the paediatrician to have a look at him.
“They sent us for a chest X-ray and that was when he started turning a horrible grey colour.”
Harrison was immediately taken to a paediatric unit where he was hooked up to equipment to check his vital signs.
Kelly said: “When we walked on to the ward, it was like something off the television.
“The doctor called for the resus team and said to a nurse that Harrison was really sick.
“All of a sudden there were 14 or 15 doctors and nurses around him hooking him up to tubes and he was not making a noise.
“That really scared me. I remember screaming, ‘why is he not crying?’”
The doctors at Basildon managed to stabilise Harrison before transferring him to Great Ormond Street.
Kelly added: “It was just so surreal. I remember thinking, ‘this can’t be real, someone is going to turn around and say ‘only joking’.”
Staff carried out tests on Harrison and eventually diagnosed his condition as Group B streptococcal.
His condition fluctuated over the next five days until staff eventually told the couple the infection had become so bad he might not pull through and if he did, he would be in an almost vegetative state.
“It was devastating,” Kelly added. “We went back to the hotel room in shock. After a night of crying and shouting and throwing things around the room, we decided if there was a chance, we would rather let go.
“We didn’t want that life for him, so we started organising family to come andsee him to say goodbye.”
However, when they next went in to hospital, doctors told the couple Harrison had begun to make an unexpected recovery.
Kelly added: “He just started fighting and the doctors could not explain how or why.”
Now aged four, Harrison is a happy, healthy toddler and is looking forward to starting “big school” next September.
Kelly added: “He is completely normal. The only issue he has is his speech development is slow, but since starting nursery, that’s coming along.
“He has check-ups every year.
“I remember going back to see the consultant a year after he was discharged and asking ‘did I completely misunderstand the situation? Was he not that ill?
“But he told me, ‘no, he was very ill, he is a complete miracle.’”
Kelly, who works for the childcare department at Chelmsford College, now educates others, including her students, about meningitis. She said: “Harrison did not have any sort of rash. It was just my instinct, when he made the grunting noise, that something was wrong.
“That is my message to mums – just trust your instincts. If you’re worried, contact the hospital. Don’t think you’re being paranoid or hassling them.
National Meningitis Awareness Week will run between September 16 and 22.
The Meningitis Research Foundation estimates meningitis and septicaemia affect ten people in the UK and Ireland every day and children under five are most at risk.
The condition kills one in ten sufferers and leavesaquarter with life-altering conditions such as deafness, brain damage and loss of limbs.
To find out more about the symptoms, visit the Meningitis Research Foundation website at www.meningitis.org