William’s story

William is a happy go-lucky little boy who loves to clap, wave, talk to his big brother Harry, laugh and roll around on the floor playing with his toys. Looking at him now, at 11 months old, you would never know the tough start he had to life.

William was born at 38 weeks, weighing 2.9kg.  Being a little on the small side, routine three hourly glucose tests were put in place as a precaution.  On the ward, mum Kathryn had the usual newborn niggles with feeding and William was a little grunter when breathing but neither she nor her husband Tom or the midwives had any concerns.  His glucose tests were moved to six-hourly and he got sleepy.  All very normal for a fresh newborn baby.

A little while later following a much-needed sleep, Kathryn woke to William crying.  Comforting him with a cuddle, Kathryn noticed his fingers were ice cold and knew something was wrong.  The midwife carried out a glucose test, earlier than the next scheduled one, and it revealed William had extremely low blood sugar and laboured breathing.

William was transferred to the nursery for assistance with his breathing and blood pressure and he was administered broad-spectrum antibiotics.  At this stage, his condition was not overly concerning, and he was expected to respond well to the antibiotics and return to the ward in a day or so.

However, at around midday, Kathryn and Tom received the terrifying news that William had taken a turn for the worse and was being transferred to the Neonatal Critical Care Unit. It was confirmed that he had contracted a Group B Strep infection during delivery.  From that infection, he had also developed sepsis in his blood, and to add to it, a chest x-ray came back showing William had pneumonia.

Kathryn and Tom were told that if William didn’t start responding to the antibiotics, they should prepare themselves for the possibility they could lose William.

“We were broken and numb, I think that just about sums it up. We were extremely apprehensive and reluctant to even flirt with any feelings of hope or optimism in case the worst came to pass” Kathryn said.

“We were extremely unprepared for any of this, especially having previously had a ‘normal’ new parent experience with William’s older brother Harry”.

The next morning, news that William was stable was a relief.  Unfortunately, it was a short-lived relief when the doctors informed them that to keep him stable, he was on the maximum levels of available treatments including oxygen and adrenaline.  It was decided that William should be placed on ECMO (a life support technique that takes over the function of a child’s heart and lungs) to keep him alive and allow his body to try and fight the infection.

Thankfully, the operation was successful, and William responded well to ECMO.  Five days later he had all but beaten the infection and was taken off ECMO.  Five more days in PICU learning to breathe on his own again and he was ready for the ward, and then home!

“Once William was on ECMO he didn’t look back.  Every day William was better than the day before, and we started to see the light at the end of our dark tunnel.  We spent a lot of time at William’s bedside and it was lovely when the volunteers would come around with books so we could read to him”. added Kathryn.

The family recently took William to the beach for the first time and he loves the water and the sand, although unfortunately learning the hard way, that sand isn’t for eating!!

It is hoped, that apart from a few routine outpatient appointments, Williams’s medical journey is over, giving the family lots of time to enjoy many more ‘firsts’ in William’s life.

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