Emilie O’Connor had a very short life - passing away due to sepsis at just ten months old. But her mum Margaret and dad Gary want her life to be an important one.
“She was just a baby but we want everyone to know just how dangerous sepsis can be - parents and medical professionals,” they said.
The grieving parents admit that Emilie was a ‘miracle’ child from birth having been diagnosed - even before birth - with the rare condition Exomphalos which meant she was born with her liver and stomach outside her body.
But she was a little fighter and even at two weeks old she survived a urine infection and sepsis. Mum Margaret, who was studying nursing, and dad Gary were very aware of her baby’s condition. Margaret had given up her studies at Queen’s University when she was pregnant to focus on her daughter’s care.
The couple who live in Drumellan in Craigavon, and have three sons Daniel (13), Shayne (12) and Callum (9), said that despite Emilie’s condition, she was a happy child until at ten months old she started getting symptoms of a cold. Quite normal for most parents but they were aware that any infection could be harmful to the little girl.
Emilie’s symptoms started in February 2017 over several days with a cold and a temperature but then deteriorated into vomiting and loud grunting noises. She would later develop purple spots and a rash which Emilie’s mum said were treated as ‘nothing to worry about’. Five hours later she sadly underwent cardiac arrest and died from bacteria in her blood and Sepsis.
Margaret and Gary said: “Our daughter was born on April 6th 2016 with a health condition, which never hindered her. We weren’t sure if she would even survive at birth, but she proved everyone wrong and was fantastic, doing everything a normal baby does. We were so happy with our little miracle baby.
“At just two weeks old, Emilie developed a Group B Strep urine infection and the doctors looking after her advised us she was starting to go septic, but they had caught it early and it was treated quickly. “She was allowed to go home two weeks later, after IV antibiotics were given to clear up the infection.
“Over the next nine months she was brilliant – such a happy, pleasant girl who enjoyed fun times with her family.
“Then the dreaded week came on Saturday, February 4, 2017. Our daughter had been sick with what we thought was just a common cold. Her temperature had been going up and down for the next few days, so we treated her with paracetamol and Nurofen.
“On the Tuesday I took her to the GP who said she had a red ear and red throat but felt she had a viral infection and sent us home with no medication and said if she was no better after a few days to bring her back. On Wednesday, February 8, her temperature had been up and down all day and then she started vomiting.
“She’d had a history over the last few months of a cough and vomiting so we weren’t overly concerned, but when we put her to bed she started making grunting noises and her temperature reached 38.9.
“The grunting was new and was extremely loud so we took her to A&E in the early hours.
“There her temperature went up to 39.3. They gave her Nurofen which seemed to reduce the temperature, and they felt that she just had a viral infection. We were sent home at 4am,” added Margaret who said Emilie started vomiting around 45 minutes later and rushed her back to A&E.
“We waited a bit. Bloods and X-Rays were done around 8am and she was then admitted to the ward where we were informed that another hospital was going to look at the X-Ray to see if there was any obstruction, which was then ruled out in the early morning.
The couple explained that Emilie was then treated for constipation but her heart rate, temperature and respiratory rate were all elevated and Nurofen and paracetamol administered regularly. Then news came from the labs saying bacteria was found in Emilie’s blood. “The doctors felt that given she didn’t seem drastically ill, this result was a false positive and decided to repeat them,” she said.
She was later given antibiotics. “She was less active and her skin was extremely pale and mottled. The antibiotic was started and within five minutes we noticed a purple spot on her shoulder. We informed nursing staff who reassured us, however, the rash got worse,” they said.
Just a few hours later Emilie was dead.
“This has totally crushed our lives and now we’re trying to raise as much awareness of sepsis as possible. This is a very dangerous but treatable condition. If sepsis is identified and treated early, the chances of survival are increased.
“If not identified quickly the chances of a poor outcome/death increases by 8% every hour that it is left untreated.
“The signs and symptoms Emilie presented were grunting, vomiting, high temperature, fast heart rate, high respiratory rate, mottled skin and passing less urine.
“If raising awareness keeps our daughter’s memory alive we will do all in our power to save as many people as possible by highlighting signs and symptoms to both the public and medical staff to try and ensure that no one has to go through this horrific experience that our family had to endure.”
For more information on sepsis check out the website: sepsistrust.org/support