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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 13:22 GMT
'I was so lucky my daughter survived'
St Mary's Hospital, Paddington
Katy was treated at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington
Angela Elbourme's daughter Katy contracted meningococcal septicaemia as a 20-month-old toddler in 1996. Here she tells BBC News Online about the horrific experience the family went through.

When Katy woke up at 7am on an October day in 1996, her mother had no idea that she would soon be fighting for her life.

She was her normal happy, bouncy self.

It was a ghastly, nightmarish time

Angela Embourme
However, within an hour she became tearful, started to run a temperature and vomited.

Then she fell asleep, only to wake up to vomit again and go into a convulsion brought on by her high temperature.

Mrs Elbourme called her GP, and was told to take Katy straight to Hammersmith Hospital in West London.

Once at the hospital, the Katy underwent a battery of tests over the next six hours.

Finally, after a lumbar puncture, the doctors decided that she was not suffering from a meningococcal infection.

Despite that, Katy continued to deteriorate. Then her mother noticed that she had developed a rash, and alerted the medical staff.

At that point, said Mrs Embourme: "All hell broke lose."

Black marks

Katy's body suddenly became covered in black bruise-like marks as the septicaemia began to take hold.

She was rushed into an operating theatre, where she was intubated and put on a life support machine.

A team of specialists arrived from St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, and worked for four hours to stabilise Katy before they could transfer her to the specialist facilities at St Mary's.

During the three mile journey between the hospitals Katy's blood pressure dipped dangerously low and she nearly died.

Once at St Mary's she was taken to the paediatric intensive care unit where she remained for the next two weeks.

For ten of those days she was hooked up to a life support machine, heavily sedated and paralysed.


Doctors had rated Katy's chance of survival at around 1%, but she defied the odds, and is now a healthy, happy six-year-old.

Mrs Embourme said: "Miraculously, apart from a few little scars she is one piece.

"We were one of the few fortunate ones, sadly not a lot of people in our situation have that good fortune.

"At the time I was in a complete daze. You cannot quite believe it is happening.

"It was a ghastly, nightmarish time, particularly when you are told we really don't know whether your daughter is going to survive."

Mrs Embourme said she spent a lot of time reading to her daughter while she was kept in intensive care.

"Even though she was unconscious the doctors told us that they did not know how much she could take in.

"It was also a comfort to us, because it was about all we could do."

Mrs Embourme said she was delighted that the meningitis vaccine programme had been so successful.

"I'm just sad that it could not have been around four years ago so we would not have had to go through what we did.

"But we have been very fortunate. Many children die, and many others lose limbs. We have got a child who is healthy and able to run about."

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See also:

03 Jan 01 | Health
Brain disease 'wiped out'
03 Jan 01 | Health
Q&A: Meningitis vaccine success
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