Real Life

Real life: “My son's fingers and toes are falling off”

Doctors told us he wouldn't make it through night.

By Brittany Smith

Katelyn Galea, 21, shares her true life story:

A high-pitched scream pierced the air, waking me up.
“Waaaaah!”
I stumbled through the darkness and glanced at the clock: 5.30am. He was right on time.
“Good morning, little man,” I soothed, as I walked into my son Archer’s bedroom.
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A wide grin spread across his face. At just five months old, he was the happiest little baby I had ever seen.
My heart filled with love every time I saw his gummy smile.
He was still being breastfed so I fed him while my partner, Josh, 21, slept.
Later on in the morning, I put him down for his nap, but he woke an hour later, moaning.
“Why don’t you have a shower with him?” Josh suggested. “He loves that.”
But Archer screamed the entire time.
We took him to the doctor and were told he likely had an ear infection.
But a few hours later, I noticed his lips had turned grey.“We need to take him back to the doctor,” I told Josh anxiously.
His lips became purple in the car ride over and he flitted in and out of consciousness.
We drove straight to the hospital instead and I rushed into the emergency department.
Doctors saw us immediately.
As I placed Archer down on a bed and started to undress him so doctors could examine him, I noticed two small, red dots on his chest.I had no idea what was wrong, but I realised my baby was sicker than I ever could have imagined.
I grabbed my phone and called Josh, who was still driving around the car park.
“Get in here now!” I yelled.
I was completely hysterical.
Nurses called my mum, Michelle, who hurried over, and five minutes later, doctors told us they were treating Archer for meningococcal.
“It may not be meningococcal,” they warned, “but we need to be prepared for the worst.”
They let Josh and me see our bub, whose skin was dotted with even more purple marks.
“Hey little man,” I whispered to him.
At the sound of my voice he opened one eye and let out an almighty scream.
Doctors hurried around him and we were rushed out to the family room to wait.“He’s going to be okay,” Josh and I said robotically to each other.
A little while later, five doctors walked into the room.
As soon as I saw the look on their faces, my heart sank.
“We don’t think Archer will survive,” they explained.
“To give him any chance, we need to put him on life support. Even then, he only has a 20 per cent chance.”
I walked out of the room, my mum close behind me.
“If he dies, I can’t live without him,” I sobbed to her.She wrapped me in a hug.
“I know,” she whispered. I had no idea how this had happened. We’d made sure Archer had every injection he needed.
We were transferred to another hospital. I sat with Archer as we raced through the streets in an ambulance.
We were rushed into the ICU and nurses started to ask me if I wanted Archer to be resuscitated, in case he died.
I stared at them in silence. All I could do was cry.
Josh and I were taken upstairs to our Ronald McDonald House accommodation. We were exhausted but neither of us could sleep.
We just lay next to each other, crying.
At around 5am, when Josh dozed off, I headed back down to the ICU.
Archer had so many tubes coming out of him and his skin was purple all over.
One of the nurses, Holly, saw how upset I was and hugged me.
“I didn’t think he’d make it,” she confided. “But now that he’s survived the night, I have a really good feeling your little man will survive.”
I thanked her, tears streaming down my cheeks, and sat down next to my bub. I took photos with him, worried they would be the last photos I’d take.
He tested positive for meningococcal but despite his rash getting worse, his health began to improve little by little.
His heart rate steadied and he was able to feed through a tube.
Eventually he was off antibiotics and six days later, he was taken off life support.
I couldn’t believe we’d come so close to losing our precious baby, but we still didn’t know how badly the meningococcal had affected him.
“If he was going to lose his limbs then his rash would be darker,” a doctor informed us.
But unfortunately, we were warned that his fingers and toes would self-amputate.
It was just a matter of when, not if.
When he lost his first toe, I was devastated.
Now, four of the toes on his right foot are gone and his fingertips get darker and darker each day.
It breaks my heart that he’ll struggle to walk and touch things, but we’re going to see a specialist who will help him once they’ve all fallen off.
It’s been a hard journey but Archer is finally back to his old, happy self. And my heart still bursts with love when I see his gummy smile.

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