Parents thank medical “angels” who saved baby son’s life twice after contracting meningitis 

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A mum has praised doctors and nurses for twice saving her baby son’s life.

Gwion Wyn Davis was just 18 days old when he became critically ill with meningitis late at night – and his mum Sarah Hughes said he only survived thanks to the fast reactions of the medical “angels” at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor.

The youngster, who has been left seriously disabled by the infection, was saved for a second time last month when a bout of pneumonia left him with flooded lungs and on a life-support machine.

“The doctors managed to get the mucus off his chest so he could breathe again and be transferred to Alder Hey,” said Sarah.

“The intensive care consultant there told me the team at Bangor had once again saved my son’s life. We are so grateful to them – they play a big part in Gwion’s life but also play a big part in our life as a family too.

“To me, Gwion’s dad Darrel and our families they are nothing less than angels. I won’t have a bad word said about them.”

Gwion, now two and half years old, was born at Ysbyty Gwynedd without any medical problems, explained Sarah.

When a health visitor called at their home in Y Felinheli in August 2013 Gwion was perfectly happy and content but by 10pm in the evening he was making grunting noises and had a high temperature.

She said: “We rushed Gwion into Ysbyty Gwynedd not knowing what the problem was. His condition deteriorated very quickly and he was too unwell to have a lumbar puncture.

“We had no idea what it was but fortunately the medical team used their initiative and treated Gwion as if he had meningitis. Had they not done so he would never have made it and we would have, without any doubt, lost him.

“They ventilated Gwion and put him into an induced coma. He was then transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The medical team there told us that had their Bangor colleagues not used their initiative and taken the action they had then Gwion would have died.”

Gwion had suffered Group B streptococcus (strep-B), the most common cause of serious infection and meningitis in babies under three months old. Up to one in 10 babies infected with strep-B die while half will be left with some level of long-term disability.

In Gwion’s case he was left with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe sight impairment bordering on total sight loss.

Sarah added: “We spent eight weeks at Alder Hey before we got him home. The consultants at Alder Hey did tell us Gwion had serious long-term health issues but it was the consultant back at Bangor that really explained everything to us.

“He has real problems but he is still a wonderful, strong and loving little boy and we wouldn’t change him for the world.”

Gwion was back in Ysbyty Gwynedd’s children’s ward earlier this year having developed pneumonia, said Sarah

“He was fine and quite happy earlier in the day but suddenly went downhill late in the evening. It turned out he had pneumonia and his lungs were filling with mucus.

“The team at Bangor worked incredibly hard to get the mucus off his lungs so they could ventilate him. Again he was transferred to Alder Hey where the consultant told me the team at Bangor had once again saved my son’s life.

“He was barely alive and on a life support machine when we got to Alder Hey. Had the team at Ysbyty Gwynedd not got the mucus off his chest he wouldn’t have survived the journey.”

She added: “We spent three weeks in Alder Hey, a week back at Ysbyty Gwynedd and a week home, before going back into Ysbyty Gwynedd for a further week of care.

Sarah says she knows the prognosis for Gwion remains difficult and he faces many more stays at Ysbyty Gwynedd as, if as expected, he suffers further chest infections and complications.

She said: “Darrel and I have a great family network and we also have a healthy daughter, Maia, who is 17 months old. My mum and dad, Helen and David Hughes and Darrel’s family, Linda, Meillir and Zoneara Davis are always willing to lend a hand.

“Unfortunately Darrel was made redundant just before Christmas, he was working as a labourer at a stone masons, but it also means he’s home more and enjoys being with Gwion and Maia.

“And we are fortunate that Gwion goes to Ty Gobaith at Conwy for respite. He goes for a couple of nights each month and they pick him up and take him out for days. He loves swimming and music therapy and enjoys the sensory room.”

She added: “We don’t want people feeling sorry for Gwion or, for that matter, us as a family. Gwion is a happy, contented and loving little boy and is in fact a much-loved little star in his own right. We wouldn’t change him for the world.”

“And he is here with us thanks to the angels that work at Ysbyty Gwynedd who have not once, but twice saved his life. We really could never thank them enough.”

Ysbyty Gwynedd paediatric consultant Kathryn Foster has been overseeing the care of Gwion since his first arrival at the hospital’s emergency department.

She said: “He was clearly seriously ill and had a severe infection. He failed to respond to antibiotics and we treated him as if it was meningitis.

“There is always the danger babies that young will stop breathing so we ventilated Gwion and so did his breathing for him. This is all a team effort involving the paediatric team, anaesthetists and the transport team from NWTS (North West and North Wales Paediatric Transport Service.)

“We needed to get Gwion to a critical centre that had a bed available. However, transporting severely ill babies is a complex and difficult thing to do, so like the rest of UK it is carried out by the special transport team (NWTS). They come to Bangor and then transport to nearest bed available, usually Liverpool or Manchester.”

Kathryn Foster says once Gwion returned to Bangor from Alder Hey she explained to his parents that their son now had cerebral palsy and other complex health issues.

She said: “It takes time to be able to talk to parents and explain exactly the issues their child faces. Gwion has some challenging health issues caused by the meningitis. He is and always will be susceptible to chest infections.

“In January this year he developed a particularly severe infection and needed to again be transferred to Alder Hey for critical care treatment.

“Again this involved all the medical teams here at Bangor and the transport team working together to ensure the best possible outcome for Gwion, who was again seriously ill.”

Kathryn Foster says she sees Gwion in clinic and describes his mum and dad, Sarah and Darrel, as dedicated to their son.

She said: “Unfortunately I only really see Gwion when he is particularly ill or in clinic.

“Sarah and Darrel send us photographs and keep us up to date with landmark moments in their son’s life, which is wonderful. They are very clearly dedicated to their son who, despite his complex long-term health issues, is a delightful and happy child.”

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Ysbyty Gwynedd paediatric consultant Kathryn Foster says parents who think their child may have contracted meningitis in whatever form should seek medical help immediately.

She said: “Babies can be non-specific, there might not be a rash but they almost certainly will be pale, floppy and have a high temperature.

“Parents will know there is something wrong if it’s a serious infection. Older children may be able to tell you they have a severe headache but babies can’t.

“My advice would be not to hesitate and get medical advice and help as soon as you possibly can.

“Call an ambulance if you need to or get the child to a hospital as quickly and safely as possible.”