A four-year-old left ‘like a newborn’ thanks to a deadly brain virus has re-learned to walk and talk – thanks to her baby brother.
Tiammi Byott and two-year-old brother Jordan “swapped places” and now the toddler is paving the way for his little sis, helping her meet her milestones once again.
She was lucky to survive a rare condition which caused her brain to swell, but it left her with brain damage and she was once again “just like a newborn”, her mum said.
Her baby brother was just six months old when she began her long road to recovery, and she watched intently as he learned to play, crawl, walk and talk.
Mum Michele [CORR], 41, said the tables have turned and Jordan is now showing Tiammi the way, with them tackling each milestone together – despite the two year age gap.
Over the last 18 months he has patiently encouraged Tiammi to repeat his words, shown her how to crawl and pulled her to her feet for her first steps.
Proud mum Michele said their unique bond has put her daughter on the fast-track to recovery from encephalitis.
She said: ““She was a little adult, she did absolutely everything – then she went to being like a newborn.
“It’s like she has switched roles with her brother and it feels like he’s the older one now.
“He’s teaching her everything.
“Jordan has taught her new words, and numbers and the alphabet.
“It is really unusual having a younger child teaching an older sibling, but she is always copying him and mimicking.
“Me and my wife say it’s like they’ve swapped place since Tiammi’s illness.
“If we didn’t have Jordan she wouldn’t be as determined, but she won’t let anything stop her.
“We were told she would never ride a bike but we bought her one for Christmas and she’s trying with stabilisers – just like her brother.
“We were told she wouldn’t be able to do up buttons but Jordan is learning to use a zip and she’s copying him – and he’s helping her do it.
“We attribute the speed of her recovery to him and their unique bond. They were close before – but now they are inseparable.”
Michele, from Corby, Northants. said Tiammi was once a normal healthy two-year-old, and was even advanced for her age – potty trained and talking in sentences.
She caught what her mum thought was a stomach bug and was admitted to hospital with a high temperature, but sent home with a suspected urine infection, in March 2016, her mum claims.
Tiammi’s condition further deteriorated, but Michele claims when she called Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthenshire, she was reassured it was a ‘sick bug’.
But persistent Michele took her back to the hospital, and she was immediately taken into the high dependency unit.
Michele said: “Her eyes just kept shutting and she had no coordination, she was trying to put her dummy in her mouth but she kept missing and she couldn’t talk.
“It was so frightening.”
Consultants ruled out appendicitis and after nearly a week of tests a lumber puncture revealed she was suffering from encephalitis.
The inflammation of the brain is usually caused by an infection from a virus, and Tiammi’s parents still do not know how she came to contract it.
She was pumped with antibiotics and her mum said they feared the worst for her daughter who “looked like she was in a coma”.
Just like meningitis, Tiammi’s condition, encephalitis, commonly produces a rash – but she did not have one.
She was discharged from hospital after 15 days but had suffered damage to two parts of her brain.
Michelle said: “She was disabled from the neck down, and her mouth was crooked as if she’d had a stroke.
“Her brain had completely shut down and it was as if she was back to being a newborn.”
But nearly two months after returning home, Michele and her wife Terri-Anne, 30, spotted Tiammi intently watching Jordan who playing with a toy box.
She rolled off the sofa and slid on her tummy across the floor towards her brother.
“We started crying,” Michele said.
“It was as if watching her brother play with the toys, she thought ‘I want to be doing that.’
“We don’t know how she got on the floor. She was crawling on her belly, like in the army.
“She found the energy to drag herself across the floor to where her brother was playing.”
Since then he has continued to actively help his little sister, teaching her each new skill as he picks it up himself.
“They go to nursery together and every night they kiss each other and cuddle, and say to each other ‘see you in the morning,” Michele said.
“When he does it, she does it.”
Tiammi now goes to nursery with Jordan, and while she still struggles to speak as well as she once did, she can walk and eat.
Michelle has made a formal complaint to the hospital trust about the care Tiammi received, but are now concentrating on creating the best possible future for her.
Michele said: “Tiammi is registered disabled but she’s no different from any other child.
“I’m so proud of them both. If it wasn’t for Jordan she might not have come on at the speed she has.
“Every day is a struggle and every day we come to terms with it a little bit more.
“They’re inseparable – they’re so close and they never fight.
“We attribute her recovery to him.”