On Sunday 6 July 2008 Robbie was feeling unwell; he was 21 months old, teething and had a high temperature. He slept a lot during the day and that night when his dad Wayne and I went to bed, we gave Robbie Calpol and put him into bed with us.
At 5am the next morning Wayne woke to see Robbie with marks on his face. Because of the room being dark he woke me to turn the light on, at that point we saw Robbie was covered in bruises from head to toe. We rang Wayne’s mum to come to see to Abbie, our daughter and rang for an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and immediately the paramedic did the glass tumbler test and then injected an antibiotic.
When we reached University Hospital of North Durham there were around 10 staff waiting for Robbie. They immediately started putting drips into his body. The consultant took us to the family room and advised Robbie was seriously ill with meningitis and would be very lucky to survive. He told us that there was a crisis team on their way from Newcastle General Hospital and he would need to be transferred there so they could work with him to try and save his life. This broke our hearts. Our sweet little boy, who had only just started to walk and talk, was dying and there was nothing we could do but hope and pray.
When we finally got into see our beautiful boy we didn’t recognise him. There were tubes in each hand and his neck; he was on a ventilator and was having kidney dialysis. He had also swollen to double his size because he was being filled with fluids to keep his blood flowing.
At 1am Robbie’s body had shut down and the staff told us to be by his side as he was dying. Robbie’s heart stopped three times in the next few hours but thankfully everyone was so strong and determined to bring him back, that they brought him back each time.
Eventually Robbie slowly started to recover, but unfortunately his legs and finger tips had turned cold and black and after two weeks in hospital he was deteriorating again. The only option to save his life was amputations and the surgeons had to remove both legs – the left leg below the knee and right knee above. They also removed finger tips on both hands.
Because the meningitis had affected Robbie so badly, the physiotherapists had to start work just two weeks after the operations. At first he couldn’t sit alone and even when we held him, his head just hung.
And because Robbie’s stomach muscles had received so much damage, eating normal food was making him vomit and he was on a feeding tube for 10 hours every day. But the nutrition it was delivering was essential for his body to have the energy to re-build.
Robbie also had a lot of skin grafts and scars so most of his body was covered in dressings which had to be changed daily and sometimes more than once. He was in hospital for eight weeks in total and then we had to go back two or three times a week for dressing changes. We also had daily visits for three months from a community nurse.
Once Robbie’s skin was clearing and he no longer had the dressings, he was fitted for prosthetic limbs and around four weeks after that a physiotherapist team started an intensive course of treatment so he could get used to the limbs and eventually start walking with them.
Now Robbie has started physiotherapy with a new knee limb, so the hard work starts again. But everyday he amazes us and inspires us more and more. Every consultant that he sees him is very happy with his progress and we have no issues at present. He is swimming a lot and is determined with everything he does, that nothing will get in his way.
For the entire family, Robbie’s illness had been heartbreaking. It had also meant Wayne and I had to cancel our wedding, which was scheduled for the month after Robbie got ill. But on the first anniversary of Robbie’s ’Meningitis Strike’, Wayne and I got married and to the amazement of ourselves and our wonderful family and friends, Robbie - strong and determined - walked me down the aisle. It made our day perfect.