A north-east mum whose newborn son was gravely ill with sepsis and meningitis has urged other parents to be aware of the warning signs.
In the days after baby Harris Davidson was born in June 2017, mum Lisa had a gut feeling he “just wasn’t quite right.”
The tot had a little infection, plus ongoing jaundice and was being “fussy” when it came to feeding – and his mum began to wonder if a serious issue was emerging.
Lisa, 32, said: “He started grunting and, by the night-time, I thought ‘there’s just something not right about him’ but I couldn’t put my finger on what.
“I put a video of him on Facebook and just about everybody said he was just constipated.
“But one mum messaged me and said ‘please trust your gut – please, please take him to the hospital’.”
Harris didn’t wake up overnight to feed and had begun breathing heavily.
By the morning he had developed a fever with a temperature of 38.6C, and was continuing to grunt.
Lisa phoned NHS 24 and was given a GP appointment at Dr Gray’s Hospital for that lunchtime.
“Literally within minutes of him being put to a ward, they said he had sepsis,” she said.
“They asked if they could have permission to do whatever was needed, which I obviously gave them, and it transpired that he was going to have to go to Aberdeen by ambulance.
“I don’t know why I didn’t call an ambulance that night because, looking back at the videos I took, he was so ill.”
‘I hadn’t even contemplated meningitis’
Lisa phoned her husband Hugh, who rushed from work back to the family home near Forres to pack some bags, while mum and son were “blue-lighted” to Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital.
Harris, who was just 23 days old, was given a lumbar puncture to collect some of his spinal fluid while doctors worked to diagnose him.
They soon realised he had viral meningitis, to the surprise of his parents.
“I hadn’t even contemplated meningitis – even with all the symptoms,” Lisa said.
“The key thing was that he didn’t have a rash.
“It didn’t actually appear until day two that we were in hospital.
“People think the rash is what you have to watch out for – but if we’d waited for that, there wouldn’t be Harris.”
The most commonly-known symptom of the illness is a rash which doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it or pressed against it.
In babies and young children, other signs of meningitis include a high temperature, refusal to feed. Becoming agitated or floppy, grunting, rapid breathing and an unusual high-pitched or “moaning” cry.
The illness is caused by an infection in the lining around around the brain and spinal cord. It can lead to blood poisoning as well as brain and nerve damage.
Lisa added: “You get a little slip in the baby pack when they’re born and it does give all the symptoms, but everyone knows the meningitis rash.
“Now I know quite a few kids who’ve had meningitis and none of them had the rash – but it’s not just about that.
“You really need to be on the lookout, especially with newborn babies, because they can get ill so quickly.”
Harris is now three-years old and, despite having experienced a number of other health problems following his meningitis diagnosis, is now healthy and “bouncing”.
His parents are still thankful for the fast response at the hospital – and the support they were given by a local charity.
Having travelled from Forres, Lisa and Hugh were put up in the Archie Foundation’s parent accommodation for the six days their son was in the ward.
Lisa said: “I literally didn’t leave Harris’s room for the whole week, other than to get meals – but Hugh said the accommodation was an absolute godsend.
“He brought lots of microwave meals on the way down so was able to heat them, and we only had two babygrows for Harris and he was being sick so much – but there was a washing machine and we had it on all the time.”
The Archie Foundation’s chief executive, Paula Cormack, said: “It’s so lovely to see Harris as a lively three-year-old after facing such a worrying episode as a baby.
“We are very grateful to Lisa for sharing her experience to alert others to the signs and symptoms of viral meningitis.
“It’s at times like this – when families face a stressful and unexpected hospital stay – that Archie really makes the difference.
“The Archie-run parent accommodation means parents can be by their child’s side day and night.
“It’s like a home from home and even has cooking and laundry facilities.
“Keeping families together is so important at such a critical time and we are delighted to have played our small part in the care and wellbeing of baby Harris and his family.”