Skye Browne was looking forward to Christmas with her newly arrived daughter.
Instead, little Tinley Beutel spent the week in hospital fighting for her life.
Tinley is one of two babies recently born at Toowoomba Hospital who have succumbed to strains of the deadly parechovirus and spent the holidays in intensive care in Brisbane.
“When she first got sick and I took her in, I thought they were going to say it was a little bit of the flu,” Browne said.
“I had no idea… I really just was shocked. My body had that much adrenaline, I just, I didn’t even cry until she was starting to get better.”
Tinely was a cesarean birth, and Browne stayed in hospital with her for the first five days. Then they were sent home.
Everything seemed fine, but on December 18 Tinley didn’t want to feed and Browne noticed she had a temperature.
So she took her to the GP.
“They didn’t even want to touch her, they said take her to the hospital, and so I did.”
Not long after they got there, Tinley became unresponsive and staff struggled to work out what was going on.
“She was the colour of a tomato,” Browne said.
Unable to stabalise her heart rate, the staff at Toowoomba Hospital decided she needed to go to Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
There, the doctors did some exploratory surgery and waited for the results of some tests to determine what was going on. Eventually, parechovirus was established as the cause.
Parechovirus is a large family of nasty viruses that cause a range of symptoms and can be fatal, particularly in young babies or people with compromised immune systems.
Fever, irritability, skin rash, rapid breathing and heart rate, and diarrhoea are all common symptoms.
While it is rare, Queensland had a breakout of the virus in 2014, and over the New Year period, Lady Cilento had 22 cases.
Anther Toowoomba family’s newborn son Lincoln Elwell is still in the hospital fighting a more common strain of the parechovirus, called enterovirus.
“He is in a similar situation as Tinley was. However, we are still at the Lady Cilento [paediatric intensive care unit] in Brisbane. Going on five weeks now,” Zoe Ewell said.
“We were told a few times he might not make it, that he might die,” she told the Toowoomba Chronicle.
“It is rare that it attacked Lincoln’s heart, because this disease is not usually as severe. It’s all your worst nightmares at once.”
The two families are supporting each other as they wait and see how their babies recover.
Tinley went home, but she is back in the hospital for more tests this week.
“There is just going to be a lot of ongoing checks,” Browne said.
She says any parent who is concerned about their child should make sure they take them to the doctor.
“I am probably one of those parents that gets told they are overreacting. But I would rather that… If I hadn’t taken her in, she wouldn’t have survived.”