Five-year-old girl dies of rare illness days after ‘catching a cold’

February 7, 2016 | by | 0 Comments


A five-year-old girl whose mother thought she had a cold died just days later of a rare illness.

Happy and healthy Elizabeth Spencer started feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms including a headache.

But the next day she collapsed and was rushed to A&E where she was put in an induced coma.

Just 18 days later, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed youngster heartbreakingly passed away.

(Natalia Spencer / SWNS Group)

(Natalia Spencer / SWNS Group)

The cold-like virus she had triggered an extremely rare auto immune condition – which sent her body into overdrive to fight off the original virus.

The condition, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, caused her body to go into septic shock, shutting down her major organs and cutting off the blood supply to her limbs.

Elizabeth was put on life support at Bristol Children’s Hospital but sadly died on December 10 last year despite doctors’ best efforts.

After the machines were switched off and the tubes removed from her body, a nurse helped Elizabeth‘s mother, Natalia, wash her little girl’s hair for the final time.

On the day of her funeral, a rainbow appeared in the sky and after the service, her family released rainbow-coloured balloons in her memory.

Now, brave Natalia is fighting her grief to raise money and awareness by walking the entire coast of Britain – because the seaside was Elizabeth‘s favourite place.

The 41-year-old, who was formerly a PA, will set off on Valentine’s Day and tread 6,000 miles, starting from Durdle Dore in Dorset – the last beach they visited together.

She plans to finish ten months later on December 10, the first anniversary of Elizabeth‘s death.

Natalia, of Cheltenham, Glos., said: “I couldn’t believe it to begin with. In the morning I thought she had a flu and in the evening I was told she probably wouldn’t make it.

“It’s devastating for a mother to see a child like that. “It was 18 of the most heart-breaking days.

She added: “Her immune system killed her.”

Elizabeth Spenceris in hospital as she was treated for the rare illness which took her life days later (Natalia Spencer / SWNS Group)

Elizabeth Spenceris in hospital as she was treated for the rare illness which took her life days later (Natalia Spencer / SWNS Group)

Natalia said her daughter was an “exceptionally happy” little girl, who was kind, inquisitive and adventurous and dreamed of being a zoo keeper.

She said: “I had a very active girl. She was able to do everything. She wanted to live and she was full of energy. She would always talk and laugh.

“We were always going on mini expeditions to museums, zoos, wildlife parks, forests, the coast and anywhere else we could think of.

“She particularly loved the beach and the sea. We went to the seaside a lot.
“After she passed away I went to the seaside quite a few times and I realised that it is the only place that helps me to feel better and connect with her.

“I realised that I wanted to be by the seaside for a long time. I didn’t want to go home, I just wanted to stay and walk and walk and walk.

“And then I thought, why not? Why can’t I stay and walk and walk and walk? I have nothing to lose any more.

“I made the decision to walk Britain’s coastline. As soon as I made that decision, I saw a rainbow straight away.”
SWNS_COLD_TRAGEDY_11Natalia now hopes to raise more than £100,000 for the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal children’s charity, which is associated with the hospital where Elizabeth died.

The mother-of-two, whose son is studying at university in York, said: “Quite a few times, Elizabeth asked me, ‘Mummy, what will you do if I die?’

“Of course, I didn’t take questions like that seriously. I said, ‘I would die too.’ But I didn’t think it would happen to her so soon.”

Her little girl fell ill with a cold on November 21 but at the beginning, Natalia didn’t think much of it.
SWNS_COLD_TRAGEDY_17The following day, before she was rushed to hospital, the pair visited a museum in Bristol before going to visit Father Christmas as an early festive treat.

That night, Elizabeth struggled to sleep and woke up coughing, and with a fever. At 6am she woke up and started breathing rapidly.

Natalia arranged an emergency appointment at Cheltenham General Hospital and carried her little girl in her arms to see the doctors, because she was too weak to walk.

She was transferred to the intensive care unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, before moving to Bristol Children’s Hospital on November 23 and passing away 17 days later.
SWNS_COLD_TRAGEDY_03Now, two months on, Natalia hopes to raise funds and awareness so she can help make sure other families never find themselves in her position.

“Losing my child I lost my purpose. This is my new purpose,” she said.

Natalia is currently eating a tailored diet in preparation for the walk and plans to start off slowly when she sets off, gradually building up to 20 miles a day.

She will begin her epic challenge next Sunday and is inviting others to join her for any part of the walk.

To find out more about Elizabeth‘s story, visit

To donate, go to or text ELIF 55 to 70070.

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