The parents of a poorly five-week-old baby believe they saved his life by following their instincts – when his refusal to feed turned out to be meningitis.
Little Fletcher was not showing typical signs of meningitis when parents Sarah and Tom Faulkner rang non-emergency line 111 in the early hours of July 2, 2017.
Within just six hours of that phone call, Fletcher was fighting a battle for his life.
Sarah, 33 and Tom, 32, feel their own instincts encouraged them to persist for help and know they would have lost their child if they hadn’t feared the worst.
As the couple went to put Fletcher to bed on the night of July 1, he began to display unusual behavior, making grunting noises and being clingy.
By 4am, when Fletcher had refused to feed and take his milk, the family began to worry and were advised by 111 to go to Burnley out of hours hospital, Lancs.
However, once there they discovered there were no paediatric doctors available until 10am that same day – so they took the decision to travel to Blackburn hospital.
Sarah, an online marketing executive, said: “Once Fletcher refused to feed we rang 111 at 4am and followed their advice to go to Burnley.
“The GP couldn’t find anything wrong with him after she carried out routine tests and said the paediatrician wasn’t due in until 10am.
“We took the decision to go to Blackburn and we’re so lucky we did because by 9am Fletcher had been diagnosed with meningitis and gone into septic shock.”
Just 20 minutes after the family arrived at Blackburn Hospital, Fletcher’s health had deteriorated quickly and he had a temperature of 38.7 degrees.
The little boy was given antibiotics into his wrist as a precaution so his body could start fighting any infections.
Sarah from Colne, Lancs., said: “Once they gave him antibiotics I think I knew then they suspected meningitis.
“My whole heart sank, I was just praying I was wrong.
“We were then told Fletcher would need a lumbar puncture and were asked to sit in the waiting room as it can be unsettling as the baby has to be put in an uncomfortable position which isn’t nice for anybody.”
The stress of the operation on his tiny body caused him to have a septic shock as the doctors were preparing him to be put to sleep.
Sarah said: “We knew something was wrong because every nurse in the ward was running in the direction of Fletcher.
“That’s when the hysteria started to set in and we were beside ourselves.
“Our families had arrived at this point and we all just wanted answers but the doctors and nurses needed us to take a step back and let them look after Fletcher.
“As a parent not being able to look after your baby is the hardest thing. I felt so helpless sat waiting just praying my baby boy was going to be OK.”
Sarah and Tom, a credit controller, were finally able to see Fletcher and were told he was going to be transferred to specialist hospital, Alder Hey, in Liverpool.
Sarah said: “It was awful seeing him lying there covered in tubes – he looked so helpless.
“To see him suffering to a point where he was swollen up like a balloon was unbearable, he was covered in purple bruises.”
Once at Alder Hay, Fletcher was placed in a private ICU suite during his week-long battle with the deadly virus.
After a few days, the family received the news they had all been praying for, that Fletcher was starting to fight the infection.
Sarah said: “When I was finally able to hold him again three days later it was like holding a newborn baby again, I was so overwhelmed with relief.
“We all just finally let out the biggest breath that we had all been holding in.”
Sarah was told that Fletcher was going to be able to come home on her birthday, which she described as the ‘best present ever’ and he is now fit and healthy.
Sarah and Tom are now planning Fletcher’s first Birthday coming up in May –
something they may not have had the opportunity to do if it wasn’t for their maternal instincts.