By LEANNE WEYMARK-COTTER
Danielle, my 14 month old baby girl, woke up sick, vomiting with a high temperature in the middle of the night. I gave her some paracetamol but she couldn’t keep that down. She had been sick with a throat infection two weeks earlier and I thought it was that again. I was wrong.
In the morning I lifted her up out of her cot and she couldn’t lift her head up, couldn’t lift her arms up to me. She was limp. I took her straight to the Doctors, he took her blood pressure and called an ambulance and she was taken to Shoalhaven Hospital. She made it, just. On arrival she had no blood pressure, had stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. I was taken into a room away from the usual emergency area, and away from my baby.
I can’t remember a lot of what happened at Shoalhaven Hospital except that she had very light purple blotches on her torso, front and back that kept coming and going. And her left arm was starting to go grey. Then, shortly after, she started to decline rapidly. All of her veins began to shut down. She needed to be airlifted to Camperdown Children’s Hospital but it took hours to stabilise her for the flight. I watched her being put into the little red helicopter and my heart just sank. I felt like it was going to be the last time I saw her alive. She was being taken away from me.
I finally got to Sydney and found the Intensive Care Unit and walked in. My baby was lying on a bed on the other side of the room and her arms and legs were black and she was so swollen. She had so many tubes and infusions running to her. I don’t remember much after that, but at some stage one of the Doctors took me outside and sat me down. He told me that they thought Danielle’s had meningococcal disease and that she probably wasn’t going to live. I hadn’t heard of meningococcal disease. I had no idea what he was talking about. He tried to explain it to me but it didn’t really matter at the time. The only thing that mattered was that my beautiful baby girl was only with me for 14 months and she was going to be taken away from me forever.
Eleven days after being admitted she had her left arm amputated through her elbow. That was the first of between 70 and 80 operations to date. After that she had her four fingers, palm and half of her thumb off her right hand amputated. It just went on and on. She had her toes amputated, and skin grafts on her arms and legs. Every time she went into theatre we didn’t know what she’d come back with or if she’d come back at all. She had central lines changed and skin grafts done again because they didn’t take the first time. Danielle had some seizures, and she had some swelling around her brain also.