Danielle Eve Sharpe
It was the 12th January 2005. Danielle (then two and a half) had gone to bed the night before perfectly fine. She woke at 10.45pm, she had been sick and was very hot. I gave her Calpol and a big drink of water. She settled down immediately, only to wake again at 3.45am having been sick again. I lifted her out of the cot, changed her and gave her more Calpol and a drink. I said to my husband "I wonder what’s wrong with her?" She was very pale and still and when I laid her back down she said "carefully mummy, it hurts". I left her to sleep.
My husband went to work at 7.30am, my son got off to school at 8.15am. I checked on her and although she was still, she seemed to be sleeping and settled. I checked again at 9.30am and she was still sleeping. She finally awoke at 10.30am, shouting "Mummy". I opened the bedroom door, and she was stood at the foot of the cot. The purple rash was all down her face, her arms and legs. My own legs almost gave way, I knew what it was and I hadn’t seen it before. I knew it was meningitis.
I picked her up and all she kept saying was "thirsty I want a drink mummy". I raced downstairs and dialled 999. The operator was very kind as I gabbled that she had "that rash" and "it’s meningitis, please help me". The ambulance and a rapid responder car seemed to be at my house within seconds. The guy in the rapid responder rolled a glass over her arm and said "I am taking her to hospital now, you get dressed and follow in the ambulance". I got dressed, rang my husband, my mum and my sister.
I got to Pontefract A&E at 10.45am. Danielle was already on a bed with drips and lines in, but awake. I sat with her, in complete shock. The anaesthetist explained she would have to put her to sleep so they could work on her.
My husband arrived and my family. At one point my mum counted 13 medical staff round Danielle, all helping her. They explained she was very seriously ill with meningococcal septicaemia. She would be moved to Leeds Paediatric Intensive Care ward and they would look after her. They took her in an ambulance at 3.30pm. We weren’t allowed to travel with her.
We were told she may die, and the next few days were going to be hard for her. We were in complete and utter shock. She spent ten days in intensive care before she was off the critical list and she finally awoke. We saw her toes turn black one by one and two of her fingers. Her right foot and parts of her arms and legs were badly ulcerated.
The day she awoke and we were able to hold her again was incredible, we felt so honoured that she was still with us. She was moved to a children’s ward for two weeks while they assessed what damage the disease had done to her. The day they amputated her right foot, all her toes on the left foot, her right index finger and the tip of the little finger on her right hand was the most emotionally destroying day in our lives. She had been through so much. Her little body was covered in bandages because of the ulcers on her arms and legs, and the healing process was a long and very painful one for her.
She got her first prosthetic leg in May 2005. It was wonderful to see her walking again. She is now seven and a half years old and is a bright, intelligent, clever, chatty, amusing little girl. She has lots of friends and loves school. We are so so proud of her and all she stands for, and we are so lucky to be able to call her ours.
I will rage against what this disease did to her for the rest of my life but we still have our girl, and for that we must be eternally grateful. Some families are not so lucky.