'I thought my baby girl was going to die'
Edith Middleton is a happy and healthy little baby but just seven months ago she was fighting for her life.
The youngster was struck down by meningitis and septicaemia when she was just 36 hours old.
She was rushed to Bristol Children's Hospital where her mother Claire Middleton was given the devastating news that her daughter had the potentially fatal disease.
The nurse said hearing the diagnosis caused her world to fall apart and she feared her baby would die.
Edith, who was born on Valentine's Day contracted meningitis and septicaemia through the group B strep infection, passed on from her mother during labour.
But Mrs Middleton, 28, said she knew nothing of the infection before it left her daughter at the brink of death and now wants to raise awareness of the symptoms.
Edith and her mum were discharged from St Michael's Hospital, in Bristol, 24 hours after she was born and there was no sign of the drama that was to come.
"She was a bit fractious at home that evening but I put that down to being in a new environment and expected that with a newborn baby," Mrs Middleton, who is married to physiotherapist Joseph, said.
"She went down fine but at 2.30am I woke up and thought she had not fed for a long time so tried to feed her.
"I tried to wake her up and she was awake but didn't want to know. I thought maybe she wasn't hungry but then I realised she was quite warm."
Mrs Middleton's parents were staying at the couple's Weston-super-Mare home, in north Somerset, and her mother is also a nurse so she asked for some advice and they decided to go along to the maternity unit at Weston General. The team at the hospital's Ashcombe unit sent them to the emergency department where Edith was rushed through and given tests.
"It was at that point that we realised how severe it was," Mrs Middleton, who also has a two-year-old son George, said.
"We had been thinking she was still jaundiced but they said she was probably septic but didn't know where.
"The next thing we knew we were blue-lighted up to Bristol and when we got there they were waiting for us in the resuscitation room, which was pretty scary. They put lines in straight away so they could give her fluids and antibiotics.
"She had a lumbar puncture (where a needle is inserted into the back to remove fluid for testing) and bloods were taken and we were told that she had meningitis and septicaemia and it was most probably from group b strep, which is the most common illness in new babies.
"You have already got your whole life gradually falling apart and then it seems to fall apart even more."
Mrs Middleton said the medical team were fantastic but it was distressing not being able to hold her daughter in those early hours of treatment.
"I had to put her in a cot – a massive cot for this tiny little baby – and we weren't allowed to hold her because it could cause her pain and distress caused by the fluid on her brain and the meningitis."
Initially Edith did not respond to treatment so had to be taken to the paediatric intensive care unit.
"I thought she was going to die. I really did think I was going to lose my little baby girl. It was absolutely awful," Mrs Middleton said.
Luckily Edith started responding to her treatment and after 24 hours in intensive care was taken to the ward where she spent a fortnight.
So far there have been no signs that the meningitis has had any lasting effects on Edith, but Mrs Middleton said as she gets older there will be a need to watch her learning development.
"At the moment all the signs are right and it shows how important early intervention is."
Mrs Middleton is supporting Meningitis Awareness week, which begins today, and wants other families to be aware of the symptoms. She has been supported by Thornbury-based Meningitis Research Foundation and despite not being a runner will be doing the Bristol 10k for them next year.