A heartbroken mother has revealed the devastating moment she lost her 10-month-old daughter to meningitis just one day after seeing her take her first steps.
Rebekah Watson, 26, from Doncaster, was bursting with pride after watching her baby girl, Lily Teale, smiling and giggling as she hit the crucial milestone in November last year.
Just hours later, Lily was rushed to hospital after her lips turned blue and she was unresponsive.
After suffering six cardiac arrests, doctors told Ms Watson and her partner Lloyd Teale, 27, there was nothing more they could do, with the youngster only being diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis W following a post mortem.
Lily’s mother said: ‘The pain was unbearable. She’d been absolutely fine just the night before. We’d lost our little girl in a matter of hours.’
Ms Watson, whose Facebook post about her loss has been shared thousands of times around the world, is petitioning to lower the age of the MenACWY vaccine from 14 years old to three months, believing it could have protected her daughter.
Lily, who born in January 2017, took her first steps on November 21 with no sign of her being unwell.
Ms Watson, who is on leave from her job at a scaffolding firm, said: ‘She was such a happy baby. Every parent thinks their child is perfect, but Lily really was. She never threw tantrums, she always slept and ate well. She was constantly smiling.
‘She was such a pretty baby, too. Whenever we went out, people were just drawn to her. They’d always want to stop and chat, and she’d love the fuss.’
Yet, in the early hours of late November, Lily woke up crying, vomiting and with a high temperature.
After checking her over, Ms Watson gave Lily some Calpol and ibuprofen, before calling the non-emergency NHS number 111.
She said: ‘I described the symptoms and they told me to keep giving her medicine, but to take her to doctors if she hadn’t improved within 12 hours.’
Ms Watson managed to get Lily back to sleep for around an hour, before she woke again as her normal self, happily playing around the house.
Yet, as the morning progressed, Lily’s temperature spiked again, prompting Ms Watson to take her to a doctor.
She said: ‘That was when she got really poorly. She was sick in the waiting room and seemed very lethargic.
‘Lloyd was at work and my family were all at my grandad’s 70th birthday, so I was on my own with her.
‘We eventually got called in and they said she probably had a sickness bug like gastroenteritis.
‘I told them Lily had tonsillitis a few weeks earlier and asked them to check her throat, too, which they did, but they didn’t seem worried.
‘You don’t question doctors and I really thought, after having their reassurance, that everything would be fine.’
Back home, Lily briefly seemed fine once again, before dramatically deteriorating that afternoon.
After the toddler developed diarrhoea, Ms Watson was changing her nappy when she noticed a mottled rash around Lily’s groin.
She said: ‘It wasn’t the typical rash you associate with meningitis, the one you see in the glass test.
‘It was more veiny and purple. Lily’s lips and hands then turned blue, so I phoned an ambulance right away.
‘By the time they arrived, she was completely unresponsive. I was absolutely petrified.’
Phoning Lloyd, who had been at work, to break the news, Rebekah raced to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where Lily was taken straight to the resuscitation area as her anxious family gathered to wait for more information.
At this point, medics were unsure what was happening, but planned to stabilise the infant before blue-lighting her to the more specialist Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Tragically, she did not make it that far.
Ms Watson said: ‘Lily went into cardiac arrest six times, until eventually, doctors said there was nothing more they could do. We were totally devastated.’
Tests performed after Lily’s death revealed she had contracted meningococcal meningitis W, but doctors are unable to determine its cause.