In January 2010 my son Jack had a rather tricky illness: he was so poorly he ended up in hospital for about a week, and he had to stay there for a couple of months. I had pneumonia myself and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Everything was just so sick and horrible, and there was nothing he could do. We had a really shocking time, but it only made us more determined to find out what was wrong. We knew Jack had only come down with something extremely bad so we wanted to find out who might have brought it on.
So the doctors diagnosed Jack with severe sepsis. Fortunately, by the time he got to hospital, he was responding well to antibiotics, but just to make sure we knew what was going on, we called the clinic on Dec 6 2010. I know from records that they weren’t expecting to hear back from them until Jan 1 2012. That was just a matter of time before they were going to report on all of us to the government, and we wouldn’t have known until then. It would have been a long time.
Jack was diagnosed with a three-stage severe sepsis. They called it an outbreak and started having to give him a daily flow of antibiotics. From that point on, he would get a real number of prescriptions for at least a month. They gave him two months of antibiotics for one illness alone, and, in total, between five and eight months of medication.
He had to wear a cap with a large button to stop his oxygen flowing, but his skin had turned orange. At first I didn’t really worry, because we had always assumed he was going to have trouble breathing. But he had such a low grade of sepsis, too – my GP thought it was just a common cold. And he had a series of all these infections, so the doctors decided to rule out every single possibility to try to save him.
They did put some grafts on his leg with a material that you couldn’t see on the outside because it looked black, and they also sent me and his dad a lot of shots, to take around different bacteria, so they had some skin protein that could have had an allergic reaction in some people. Every day his condition would get worse and worse. He would get a tiny bit better, but that’s it. Then one day at the end of January he woke up and I actually asked him if he wanted to come home, and when he said yes, I picked him up from hospital.
Then, when we looked at his health record, there was nothing to support what we thought was going on. I could not understand how his eyes were purple, and how, even with the most powerful antibiotics, he was still dying. But it was such a long time since they could have told us something, and it was so far off before he had to go into hospital. We missed out on that last week of Christmas. I also spent the whole last Christmas Day at home, while we went to the nurses’ station and got his arm pumped full of antibiotics.
We had no information on antibiotic resistance. We had no idea what was going on, but we all knew it was bad. It was scary, but it wasn’t like we had an alarm set.
Every day I wondered: will I have to do this again? Will my other two children get it, too? I desperately wanted to know what to do.
A few weeks later, they transferred Jack from intensive care to the general ward. I was supposed to make weekly visits, but instead I was able to spend about a month with him. He had his sights set on getting well, which was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.
I was going to die when he had his epipen made, but when I started to take the drugs, Jack started showing a huge improvement. I asked Jack how we had got so much better, and he just said we had needed to stop thinking about it. I couldn’t have said it better myself. He had stopped worrying about what was wrong with him.
I’ve now had three children. When I was pregnant with Ruby, the doctors didn’t think I would make it. We went into hospital quite late, and I was put on eight different antibiotics. There were times in hospital when I