A British family shares the warning signs of sepsis after their newborn nearly died from a life-threatening complication while on vacation.
Rachel Millbank and her husband Tim, 34, had set off for the English seaside with Elliot in March 2019 when they suddenly found him unconscious and “gray” looking.
“It’s a terrifying sight that I will never forget,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“When we arrived, he was lethargic and not in his normal state – then, early in the morning, I found him with labored breathing and cross-eyed eyes,” she continued. “All his limbs were tucked into his body, like in the fetal position, so I panicked.”
The parents rushed him to the hospital, where the 10-week-old was eventually diagnosed with severe pneumonia and sepsis, which developed into methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – a Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.
Sepsis occurs when “the immune system reacts dangerously to an infection,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Not only can sepsis damage tissues and organs, but it can also cause blood clots to form in blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to certain organs, causing them to fail.
As Rachel described it, symptoms of this frightening complication include shortness of breath, fatigue, low heart rate, tremors and chills, confusion or agitation, and fever, among others.
Children under the age of 1 are at higher risk of sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Millbanks remember that Elliot seemed to have a cold, with a cough and a stuffy nose, before the trip.
They said they took him to the doctor, who said the newborn was fine, so they left for the seaside.
His condition deteriorated quite quickly, putting him in a dangerous situation.
“It changed our lives forever,” Rachel said of the diagnosis.
After spending 13 days in the hospital, Elliot was transferred to another hospital due to the severity of his case.
There he was put into a coma.
Elliot survived – but, according to the Sepsis Alliance, of the more than 75,000 children who develop the disease in the United States, nearly 7,000 of them will die.
“After a few days, he started showing signs of improvement, like the shrinking necrotizing pneumonia mass on his chest,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“Luckily, after a week he was able to come out of the coma – but he was awake for over 56 hours while they monitored him due to stopping the morphine, which was horrible to watch.”
Nearly a month later, in April 2019, the newborn was finally able to come home and made a full recovery, aside from some scarring on his chest and the directive to take extra precautions if he caught a cold.
However, some children are not so lucky: according to the Sepsis Alliance, 34% of children who survive the disease “still experience a change in their cognitive abilities 28 days after discharge from the hospital.”
Now 4 years old, Elliot is doing well.
“Elliot is happy, determined and curious now – such a strong-willed fighter who scared the hell out of us,” Rachel praised.
“His stubbornness drives me crazy, but I’m convinced that’s why he’s alive today.”
Now dad Tim is raising money for the team that saved his son, the Sick Children’s Trust, by running 100 miles in September.
The Millbanks also hope to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
“It makes you think about how fragile life is and how unexpected things can be,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“Tim and I went through something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, but we came out stronger on the other side.”