My name is Charlotte Cooper, I am 40 in September and my husband Andrew is 39 and we live in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire.
We have been married for two years and after nearly two years of trying for a baby, we started to think that it wasn’t going to happen for us and then I got pregnant. I was over the moon, as was Andrew. We were so excited. We didn’t tell anyone until we had a private scan to confirm everything was ok on Mother’s Day. We started to plan for the future and aimed to buy a large forever family home, so that all the children could have their own rooms and enough space to play. We ended up moving into our new home two weeks before Heidi was due!
Heidi Anne Cooper was born on the 27th of September 2018 at 16:09 by planned c section. Everything went smoothly and we got home the next evening.
I looked forward to getting her home and settled. Our family and lives were complete, we had everything we had ever dreamed of.
The first few weeks were a blur of nappy changes and feeds, but Heidi soon settled into a routine and she loved being at home and I was her number one. I was the only one who could settle her and who knew what she wanted. She was quite a shy baby, she would cry at adults she didn’t know but she loved other children. Heidi changed so much in nine months, her personality was starting to show. She was funny, loud and she had a fiery temper if she was annoyed or didn’t get what she wanted. She couldn’t really be bothered with crawling, but we got to hear her first words ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ She had the most beautiful giggle and we have so many videos of her laughing that we play over and over, they are so precious to us now.
Heidi woke up on Monday afternoon after her nap and wouldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t settle her at all, she wasn’t herself. She had a fever and was sick when I tried to put her to bed in the evening. She slept for a little bit and woke up with a fever and was sick twice more.
Unfortunately Andrew was away with work when Heidi first became ill on the Monday. I was so concerned I called 111. An out of hours appointment was made for Heidi at the local health centre. By the time we got there Heidi’s temperature had reached 40. We were soon sent to Wishaw hospital paediatric ward. When I first went to Wishaw with her in the early hours of Tuesday, I was told that a lot of children had been in with a sickness bug. It was assumed that Heidi had the same thing.
Heidi was allowed to go home from Wishaw hospital on Tuesday afternoon, she had improved and kept down milk and food and her temperature was more normal.
When we left the ward on Tuesday afternoon I was given the number of the ward at Wishaw to call if I was concerned about Heidi 48 hours after she was let home. She didn’t have a great night on the Tuesday night, waking often, crying and a bit sick again, her fever was back as well, but on Wednesday morning she was sitting in her high chair feeding herself breakfast, so I thought she was over the worst of her virus. She started to go downhill as Wednesday went on, not really interested in food or milk which was not like her and she just sat in her chair lifeless, her fever was also back. She would sleep for twenty minutes and then wake up moaning.
Her symptoms were:
No interest in food or milk
No wet or dirty nappy for hours
Unable to look at me or her Dad – it was like she was blind
She later developed a rash on her hands
I called the ward at Wishaw at about 3pm to say I wasn’t happy with how she was and wanted to bring her back in, Andrew was at work so I called him to see if he could come home and take us back to the hospital. We got back to Wishaw about half past four on the Wednesday.
When we went back on Wednesday afternoon we were told it was viral. Every symptom we reported was labelled as part of a virus. Heidi was observed and had regular blood oxygen, temperature and pulse checks, but she wasn’t getting any better.
Heidi was admitted to a ward at Wishaw hosptial early Thursday morning for observation and as she was sleeping I was told to let her rest. She then started to wake up and moan every thirty minutes or so, so I went to ask the nurse for some juice so I could try and get some fluid into Heidi. She came with the juice and to do observation tests on Heidi and then just picked her up and carried her off to a treatment room, this was about 3am on the Thursday morning.
At this point the doctors were working to get a drip into Heidi to give her fluids and antibiotics and she had an oxygen mask on. They had a lot of trouble getting a vein and after trying both hands and arms, drilling into her knees, calling the surgical team to help, they had to use a vein in her head. A couple of hours must have passed and in this time more senior doctors were called in from the Pediatric and surgical teams and there were six or seven doctors working on her.
I started to realise something was very wrong when the nurses kept asking me if I had called Andrew to come back into the hospital. When one of the doctors told me that Heidi was septic and might have to be transferred to an ICU in Glasgow or Edinburgh, I called Andrew. I still didn’t ever believe that she might not survive.
Andrew came back to hospital at about half past six and he got to see Heidi move on her own for the last time, by now she was struggling to breathe herself and the doctors wanted to transfer her from the Pediatrics ward at Wishaw to surgical so she could be intubated to help her breathe. We walked behind her as the team rushed her down the corridor to the surgical theatre, sadly Heidi vomited as she was in the bed just before she reached surgery and her heart stopped. I will never forget the moment I saw doctors giving her CPR, I collapsed to the floor screaming ‘no,no,no’ and Andrew had to drag me out the room.
Her heart stopped for two minutes and some of her vomit went into her lungs, but she came back and she was intubated and she was now on life support.
We couldn’t see her, so were taken to a room to wait for the mobile ICU team to come by ambulance from Glasgow to collect her and take her to the PICU at the Queen Elizabeth hospital. We had a torturous three hour wait, every footstep we heard outside the door I sat up expecting it to be a doctor to see us, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, I was in shock at what had happened to Heidi in the past few hours.
The doctors came to collect us at about 11 am and we met with the mobile ICU team, they told us that Heidi might not survive the journey in the ambulance so both of us should travel with her. I talked to her the whole journey, telling her to keep fighting, to hold on, that she was going to the best place to get her help, that she was doing so well, that we were nearly there. At this time she was on adrenaline, morphine, oxygen, fluids and antibiotics and she was intubated as she was not breathing herself. One of the mobile ICU team sat and pumped Heidi’s air bag the whole journey, a good twenty minutes.
I never believed Heidi was dangerously ill, I didn’t understand she was in a life or death situation. Even when the mobile ICU team told us she might not survive the journey, I thought ‘she’ll make it, she’s so strong, she’ll be ok’
I was desperately worried about her from the moment she fell ill on Monday, but I believed the doctors when they told me it was viral and I was just waiting for her to get better. I was in shock most of the time, it was so hard to take in what was happening to her.
We didn’t find out she was severely septic until we went into meet two of the doctors at Wishaw hospital a week later. At that meeting we also learned exactly how sick she was and it was terrifying. The infection counters in her blood were through the roof, her blood had started to break down so much that it was leaking through the holes where they had tried to get a drip in, she was so very, very sick. I am amazed at how hard she worked to stay with us, she didn’t want to go.
We were told three times our baby was really really sick and she might not make it. We couldn’t comprehend that our baby had got like this so suddenly. We always remained hopeful that she would make it. We called her Viking baby as she was so strong. After she got admitted and settled in to the PICU at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Glasgow, we got to see her and meet her new doctors. We were told what tests she would get, what treatment might be possible and we were told that she might not survive her time in ICU. The lead doctor, who was fantastic with us, got her straight in for a CT scan to check her brain activity. We waited for hours and we must have dozed off on the couch in the family room. I woke with a start and went into Heidi’s room to see her. The doctor came into the room and went to get Andrew to give us the results of her scan, I was so hopeful it was good news. The doctor sat us down and told us the test that they had done and the scan that had taken place and that four different consultants had looked at her scan results and all concluded the same thing, that her brain had not received a blood supply for some time and she had suffered catastrophic brain damage. Heidi was brain dead. I pleaded with him that he could be wrong, that the test could be done again, but this was it, there was no hope anymore.
Looking at Heidi and touching her cold head, listening to the sounds of all the machines she was hooked up to, I knew she was gone. We had all the family there when we switched of the machines on Thursday night. I held her in my arms as she was pronounced dead. It was the worst moment of our lives.
We had Heidi’s funeral in the 23rd of July and we gave her the most beautiful service we could. Andrew and my Dad wrote poems for her, her sisters gave the celebrant words they wanted to be said and I had the words I used to say to Heidi each night before bed read out. We had three songs at the funeral and we were honoured that Andrews cousin sang for Heidi, it was a personal and special day. We let off pink, blue and white balloons after the service. So many people came to say goodbye, I was so proud for her and overwhelmed by the love from everyone.
We have recently planted a tree in our garden with Heidi’s ashes at the roots, we may not be able to see her grow but we can watch her tree blossom.
Now we are in a living hell that we cannot escape from. We used to have hope and believe in so much like, everything happens for a reason and that we were in control of our lives. We don’t believe in anything anymore and can’t make sense of how and why this had to happen to us and our poor innocent baby. We have had to keep busy, find little things to do each day and we haven’t left each others side.
We are telling this story in the hope that it raises awareness of how deadly sepsis is and so that parents can recognise the signs of sepsis. Nine times out of ten your child might have a virus when they are sick, but be brave enough to ask ‘what else could it be?’ ‘Have you checked for sepsis?’ Ask for a blood test, get a drip put in if your child is being sick all the time, don’t just sit and watch helplessly while your child deteriorates and don’t be fobbed off with the ‘it’s just a virus’ comment.