A heartbroken young mum has warned parents to be vigilant after her 6-week-old son died just four days after being struck down by meningitis.
Georgia Higginbottom hastily had the tot christened before she cuddled him in her arms for eight hours until he tragically lost his fight for life.
The 21-year-old mom had been faced with every parent’s worst nightmare when Oscar Nally's body was ravaged by the deadly disease.
The youngster, Higginbottom's first and only child, did not have a rash when he fell ill, but pictures from a scan showed every single part of his brain was black.
A heartbreaking decision was taken to turn off his life-support machine on Tuesday, Nov. 13, four days after he was first admitted to hospital.
Ahead of his funeral Monday, Higginbottom has spoken out in the hope other families will spot the deadly signs of the disease – and be able to prevent further tragedies.
“It’s really, really important. I did not realize how serious this disease was," she said. “He was really poorly and, if he had survived, all he would have been able to do is breathe, and that’s not a life. I did not realize how serious this disease was.”
A month after being born two weeks premature on Friday, Sept. 28, Oscar was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital with a suspected infection.
His condition improved after he was given antibiotics through a drip and, 48 hours later, he was allowed home.
He seemed “good in himself” and like “just a normal, typical baby” but, two weeks later, on Friday, Nov. 9, Oscar suddenly fell ill again.
Higginbottom's mom, Sharon Smith, 45, has told of Oscar's final moments before his tragic death at just 46 days old.
"In the morning, I was playing with him," Smith said. “Georgia fed him at noon, by 12.30 p.m. he was in the Walk-In Centre fighting for his life. “Within seconds of us putting him down, he woke up with a cry; a shrill cry. It was horrible. To look at him, you would not think there was anything wrong with him. We thought he had a bit too much milk to drink or something.”
The family went to a local walk-in center when Oscar’s breathing became “wheezy" and his temperature was 39.7C (approx. 103.4F). A doctor gave Oscar oxygen before calling ahead to the hospital.
It was at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital that tests confirmed medics’ suspicions of Group B streptococcal meningitis (GBS).
A brain scan was done and a doctor took Oscar’s family into a side room to break the devastating news that the youngster would not survive his ordeal.
“I couldn’t go in the room when they were properly explaining what was wrong because I was so upset,” Higginbottom, from Blackpool, Lancashire, said. “But then I held him and I knew he was not right.”
“They showed us the pictures," Smith said. "Every single part of his brain was black. Georgia had him in her arms and he was fitting.”
Oscar was hastily Christened and then, wrapped in his mother’s arms, his life support machine was shut down.
“It was a joint decision because Oscar had already gone up to the angels,” Smith said. “He had already gone. Georgia held him in her arms from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m. when he passed away. She did not move.”
Oscar died on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Since then, Higginbottom and her family have been staying with him in the Butterfly Suite at Brian House Children’s Hospice in Bispham.
There, in a Moses basket and surrounded by his teddy bears, he remained with his loved ones by his side before today’s final farewell, at Carleton Chapel and Cemetery at 9.30 a.m.
“He brought so much love into our house. Now that has been taken away,” Smith said. “We just feel empty and numb. It’s horrible. A part of our hearts is gone.”
Oscar did not have a rash when he fell ill and, according to the charity Meningitis Now, the signs of meningitis can be difficult to recognize in very young babies.
“If you think there’s something wrong with your child, get them seen,” Smith added. “Even if it’s the tiniest thing. It’s just a mother’s instinct. We just want to try and help people.”
Steve Dayman, who founded Meningitis Now after his son Spencer died in 1982, said: “There are different strains of bacterial meningitis. It’s a very difficult disease to diagnose and identify. In most cases, you will notice a rapid deterioration. The key to all this is not to wait for a rash. Sometimes it can be a late symptom, and other times it might not appear at all."