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June, Co. Down
22nd October 2009

When she got sick, my daughter was 1 year and 9 months old. She started to have watery diarrhoea but seemed ok otherwise so we weren't too concerned. There was no temperature, no blood in the nappy and she seemed to be in good form so we thought it was her teething which was causing the runny nappies.

After a few days she became very lethargic and sleepy. She couldn't hold down any fluids, was vomiting and her nappies were dry (I though this was because she was dehydrated). I contacted my GP who diagnosed gastroenteritis and was advised to try to give her fluids for the next 24 hours and to contact him if it didn't improve. Needless to say, her condition deteriorated. She was completely colourless and her lips were almost white. She also had shaky legs. In hindsight, I now realise that the sleepiness was actually her slipping in and out of consciousness.

When we got to A & E we were kept waiting for 3 hours. The triage nurse agreed that she looked dehydrated but that "she didn't look too bad" so we were not considered an emergency and I had to wait with my child literally dying in my arms. She was eventually admitted to paediatrics and when they took blood tests they were shocked by the results. Her potassium and sodium levels were extremely high, and her urea and cretanine were through the roof. Her heart rate was over 180 bpm and her blood pressure was very high. The hospital actually thought the results were due to their machines being faulty so the blood test was repeated. During the night I was awoken several times by the nurses as they relayed the results of repeated blood tests, each one getting worse.

She was eventually taken by emergency ambulance to a more specialised unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital where they immediately diagnosed haemolytic uremic syndrome. E.coli O157 was suspected as the cause as she had a preceding episode of diahorrea. She was taken to emergency theatre so that kidney dialysis could commence. I can honestly say that I have never gotten over this night and probably never will. Although the medical staff were fantastic they couldn't make any promises as to whether she would live or die or whether she would be on kidney dialysis on a permanent basis. It was heartbreaking to listen to her crying for a drink when she had a strict fluid intake and wasn't allowed any more. It is impossible to explain to a toddler the reasons why.

Thankfully, after 6 days of dry nappies and dialysis, she started to produce a small amount of urine which gradually increased and she was eventually able to come off dialysis. As to the future, we don't know yet. She will have kidney function tests in the future. She has recently had a kidney infection and we are hoping and praying that this hasn't added to any damage already caused by HUS.

As to the cause of the E.coli infection, we will probably never know for sure, but suspect that a well known fast food outlet is to blame as she had a burger from them prior to the diarrhoea. My son also had a burger and developed diarrhoea, but thankfully he did not get HUS. Needless to say, it is a place my children will never be allowed to eat at again.

The medical staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital were fantastic and knew immediately what to do and I am eternally indebted to them for saving my daughter's life. My message to other parents is clear. If your child has prolonged or bloody diarrhoea, please insist that your local hospital carry out a blood test, with particular emphasis on kidney function. If it is normal, great, but if not it could save your child's life. I have learned the hard way that E.coli is not something to mess around with or be complacent about.

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