Seven-year-old learns to talk, walk and eat again after contracting deadly ‘Aussie’ flu

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John Paul Rooney, 7, with dad Frank, spent months in hospital and almost died after getting Aussie flu.

A brave seven-year-old boy who endured a kidney transplant and the death of his mum has had to learn to talk, walk and eat again after deadly flu.

John Paul Rooney spent four months in hospital after becoming seriously ill with ‘Aussie’ flu, shortly after Christmas.

After three days in intensive care, doctors discovered he was suffering from the Influenza A (H3N2) strain which was responsible for Australia’s worst outbreak in decades.

John Paul’s dad Frank, 35, documented his fight for survival in more than 400 pictures and a video to show how far his little boy has come- from the first anxious moments in A&E on December 29 last to the joyful morning he was discharged from hospital, two weeks ago, on March 29.

John Paul Rooney, 7, with dad Frank, spent months in hospital and almost died after getting Aussie flu.

It has been four years since Frank donated a kidney to John Paul, who was born with a blockage in his bladder.

Then just a year ago Frank’s partner Maryann, John Paul’s mum, died suddenly in her sleep.

Frank has barely left his son’s side in the four months he has spent at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.

Frank, who lives in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, said: “We are like glue. If I go into one room of the house he follows me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When he got taken into intensive care they took me into a side room and I was sitting thinking why me, why again? What have I done?

“I’ve always been the stronger one out of me and Maryann and I remember sitting in the wee room crying and I was thinking if she was here, she would be crying and I’d have to be the strong one.

“I just thought, ‘what are you greeting for, get a grip’ and I laughed. In that moment I got it together.”

John Paul Rooney, 7, spent months in hospital and almost died after getting Aussie flu.

Frank rushed John Paul to A&E at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow days after Christmas on December 29 after he developed a high temperature.

Frank added: “They took his bloods and they all came back okay but the next day he had sickness and diarrhoea.

“Then he started hallucinating so we took him up to hospital on January 2 and they admitted him.

“That’s the downside of the transplant. He’s on immunosuppressant drugs because his immune system is low, so it was quite worrying.

“Later on that night he started to deteriorate, his oxygen levels were dropping and they couldn’t get to grips with why.

“We thought it was might be the imbalance of sodium in his brain but that came back normal.

“Then he started taking seizures and he was put into an induced coma.

“I was really worried because no one knew what was going on. At that point they didn’t know it was flu.

“Two days later a throat swab came back showing he had Type A flu. He had had his flu jag and it never crossed my mind he could catch it.

“Everything happened so quickly. I don’t even think the doctors had a chance to process what was going on.

“They would get on top of one thing and then another thing would happen. It snowballed from then on.”

John Paul was in intensive care for nine days with tests every 15 minutes to make sure his brain was still active.

John Paul Rooney, 7, with dad Frank, spent months in hospital and almost died after getting Aussie flu.

Frank said: “They ended up giving him a Tamiflu drug, which you only get if you are really ill and he got that for five days.

“He was on a ventilator because his lung had collapsed but they gradually tried to wean him off that.”

John Paul was moved into the neurology ward, but was not “out of the woods” yet.

Although he was breathing on his own, doctors weren’t sure he would be able to walk again.

And it wasn’t until January 14 that Frank was able to give his little boy a cuddle.

He said: “There was nothing to guarantee he would regain his motor skills.

“He still couldn’t do anything other than move his eyes and breathe on his own.

“Although he was lying on me, I couldn’t cuddle him.

“The first time we got a bit of hope was in the neurology ward when he moved his hand. It was all just involuntary movements at that stage.

“The physios started worked with him, trying to move his muscles.

“He was still taking seizures for a week after that.

“One of the hardest things was him not talking. It was a one-sided conversation and it was quite lonely.

“I was reading to him every day, I’ve never read so many books.

“The first word he said was pigeon. I was so pleased to hear it.”

Doctors are amazed by the progress John Paul has made after warning that the boy could be looking at a year in hospital for rehabilitation.

Frank, who runs his own cleaning business, said: “He’s got a wee zimmer frame and needs the wheelchair if he has to walk longer distances but hopefully that will come.

“He can speak pretty good now but sometimes you have to really listen. He’s still quite forgetful. He knows what he wants to say but it’s just getting it out and he’s still learning to eat.

“He won’t be back at school full time this year but he’s going to spend 20 minutes there next week, they are going to phase him in.

“The hospital have been great, from the staff to the clown doctors to Radio Lollipop.

“John Paul has taken it all in his stride and he’s always been a kid like that.

“I took more than 400 pictures, from the first day in A&E to the day he left hospital and we made a video together.

“I wanted to show that it doesn’t matter how bad things can be, this is the end product if you are determined. And John Paul is determined.”

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