Eight-year-old Kye Vincent is lucky to be alive after contracting meningococcal septicemia.
Caused by the same bacteria as meningitis, the disease targets the bloodstream – killing one in ten and requiring some sufferers – often young children – to undergo amputations.
Kye’s mum Cheryl Vincent had given birth to his baby sister Layla just five days before he began feeling ill on Saturday, March 5.
Cheryl said: “He started getting ill on the Saturday afternoon. We thought it was a tummy bug because he had no rash. In the evening, he had a headache and he didn’t like the lights.
“My mum said to me, ‘Look up the symptoms of Meningitis’. She convinced me and I looked up the symptoms before I went to bed.
“There was quite a few symptoms and he didn’t fit that many. But he woke up in the morning and couldn’t get up and I couldn’t lift him.”
Stepdad Luke picked him up but Kye was unable to stand.
Cheryl said: “When I’d researched the symptoms the night before, I’d seen photographs of bruising and that morning I noticed he had three bruises, one on his knee, one on his hand and one on the side of his shoulder.
“They were very abnormal in colour, it was like a strange purple.”
It was at the moment, Cheryl said, that her worst fears were realised. She immediately dialled 999.
She said: “I was scared, absolutely frightened... I was hysterical, which any mother would be.
“I watched him in the ambulance as his hand started to change colour.
“When we arrived, all the doctors and nurses pounced on him, put him on the bed, put tubes in his hands.
“Within three hours he changed colour, with lots of purple bruising all over his body. The doctor arrived and said to me, ‘meningococcal septicemia’.
“I’d never heard of it and I looked at the doctor and said, ‘Isn’t septicemia blood poisoning? How did he get that?’”
Cheryl was told that Kye would need to be moved as soon as possible to another hospital with specialist resources. No beds were available at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but one was found at St Mary’s Hospital in London – where Kye was moved later that day.
“They rushed him in onto the ward and I had to wait in the parenting room for 20 minutes, which seemed like a lifetime, and then the consultant came to see me.
“She told me she was concerned about his hands and feet but she said, ‘we won’t worry about that just yet’ and ‘we just need to get through the first 90 hours which is critical’.
“He was sedated, they kept him in sedation for 12 days. Then he woke up and they moved him to a high dependency unit and then it was a waiting process. They wait for the body to show itself as damaged.
“Every day that’s gone by I’ve seen his hands and feet change colour, from purple, to dark purple, to brown and then to black, because of gangrene. Where he’s got septicemia the tiny blood vessels are bursting, stopping the blood flow going to his hands and feet...
“I had to sign a consent form to cut the side of his legs to release some of the pressure. Doing that, they’ve managed to save just about... his right hand.”
Last Thursday, April 14, both of Kye’s legs were amputated up to the knee, as was his left hand.
Cheryl said: “His lifeline is going to be his right hand. His life will be dependent upon in. It takes weeks for it to heal.
“Kye’s aware of what’s happening. He was only sedated for 12 days. He’s on a lot of medication, a lot of pain relief and now he’s on an epidural after the amputations.”
Cheryl has also cared for her newborn daughter Layla while Kye has been taken ill.
She said: “When he started getting ill she was only five days old. After we went to hospital, the first three days my daughter had to stay with her grandparents.
“I felt torn between my two children. When I got her back and Kye was past the critical stage, I had something to focus on – that was my little girl.
“People say, ‘how are staying so strong’ and I’m thinking, I’m not strong – I’m just doing what any mum would do. I’m coping with it. It’s going to be a learning curve.
“He will get discharged from this hospital in eight weeks and then he’ll go to another hospital nearer to me.”
After an ordeal lasting weeks, Cheryl said that her main feeling was gratitude that Kye survived his illness.
“I’m glad he’s with us and he has no brain damage, which they said could happen. It was a fear of him waking up and not recognising me.
“But when he woke up he saw me there and knew exactly who I was.”
Friends and family have rallied around and are raising money to help support the family. A Facebook group – Fundraising for Kye – has been set up by Kye’s godmother Adele Doherty, listing each of the fundraising events.
Already over £4,000 has been raised, with different projects to take the family to Disney land and pay for an electric wheelchair for Kye.
See Adele Doherty’s fundraising page at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/kyestrust.