By Christina Wood
A mum was forced to relive the ‘worst nightmare’ that no parent should ever have to face when her 18-month-old baby died of meningitis just three years after she miscarried her twins – leaving her with no children.
Becky Barton and Matthew Bright, both 33, thought their baby Mia had chicken pox when she fell ill but hours after being diagnosed with Meningitis B she was dead.
The couple are bravely speaking out one year on after losing Mia in March 2016 to raise awareness of the terrible disease that claimed their daughter after ‘vigorously’ taking hold of her body.
Despite the agony of losing their three children, Becky and Matthew still hope to one day complete their family and are soon to marry on what would have been Mia’s third birthday so the day remains special.
Becky, from Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, said: “Our life came to an end when she died. How are you supposed to pick up the pieces when your most prized possession is gone?
“When you lose your grandparents you’re never ready for it but you deal with it, but you should never have to bury your child.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. She was everything we lived for. You try to pick the pieces up and live a normal life but it’s never going to be normal again.
“I’m constantly finding myself retracing my steps and thinking if I could do something different she could still be here but it was that vigorous and that fast there was nothing we could have done.
“It’s really hard to deal with, you have to love and care for your children and protect them but I didn’t protect her from it and I have to deal with that for the rest of my life.
“No matter how many times people tell you it’s not my fault it’s hard to accept it.”
Becky and Matt have been together for 11 years and after the twins miscarried at 12 weeks in March 2013 they decided to try again and had Mia in September 2014.
Becky, a nursery worker, said: “When I got pregnant with Mia I was a bag of nerves. I went to hospital for every little thing. I was so scared that I would have another miscarriage.
“I was happy that I was pregnant again but I was still panicking. I practically lived in hospital.
“When she was born we felt like Christmas had come early. She was perfect and healthy and she was my mum and dad’s first grandchild. Everybody loved her. She was such a character.”
On the day before her passing, Mia started showing symptoms that afternoon when she developed a high temperature and was sick twice later that night.
Despite this, the tot seemed alert but later that night the parents put the 18-month-old to bed and noticed a red spot which they thought could be chickenpox.
At 2.15am Mia’s temperature had risen further. When they noticed the meningitis rash they drove her straight to the hospital, where she was diagnosed immediately.
Becky said: “At half past 10 that night I said ‘I think she’s got chicken pox’ because she was showing red spots.
“We put her in bed with us because when your kids run down you want them to be near you.
“She woke us up at 2.30am wanting a drink. She was red and was burning up. I asked Matt to get her some Calpol but I saw she was plastered in the meningitis rash. It was deep purple with red blotches.
“She deteriorated so quickly. The doctor took one look at her and suspected straight away that she had meningitis.
“There was a team of 20 working on her. It was frantic. They were doing everything they could for her. It was a living nightmare.”
A few hours later, Mia’s heart stopped for eight minutes but the doctors were able to revive her. However it stopped again due to septic shock and she died at 5am that morning.
Becky said: “It just happened so quickly. Her body couldn’t fight it off. There was so much trauma in such a small space of time.
“One minute she was here and then she was gone. It didn’t feel real. Even to this day it doesn’t feel real.
“They were frantically trying to save her and then her heart stopped again and the doctor said ‘are we all in agreement to stop?’
“I said, ‘no you have to keep going’, I didn’t want them to give up.
“We’re still trying to get our head round it and understand what happened.
“If it hadn’t been for amazing support from friends and family I’m not sure how we would have coped.”
From September 2015 the Meningitis B vaccination was included in the childhood immunisation programme for children born on or after July 2015, which unfortunately was after the loss of Mia.
This vaccination is offered to babies aged two months, with a second dose at four months and another at 12 months free of charge but is also offered privately for people who are ineligible.
Babies born on or after 1 May 2015 are also being offered the vaccine as part of a one off catch-up campaign.
Becky said: “There is a big chance that if she had been vaccinated she would still be here. You always hear about meningitis but every child under five needs to be vaccinated.
“I know how I feel but I’ve never experienced it before. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. It was completely different when I miscarried because it was early on.
“It was devastating because we wanted to start a family and we didn’t even know we were having twins until the day we were told we lost them.
“But I didn’t get to know them or feel them growing inside me. I watched Mia develop, there are no words to describe the feeling of losing her. It was a lot more traumatic.
“We’ve talked about having more children and we’ve already set the ball in motion and when we have more children Mia will always play a big part in their life.
“We know we’ll never forget her but we don’t want anyone else to forget her.
“We’re getting married on September 14th, Mia’s birthday so the day still continues to be special. It’s another way that people can remember the day.
“We just want to raise as much awareness as we can. It’s been a really rough 12 months. The anniversary is coming up.”
The couple have so far raised more than £22,000 for Meningitis Now and are continuing to raise awareness to the disease and to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.
FACT BOX: WHAT IS MENINGITIS? (INFORMATION FROM NHS AND MENINGITIS NOW)
– Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
– It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.
– Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, such as meningococcal bacteria which has several different types, called A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z
– Meningitis B has been the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland for decades.
– The viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis can be spread through sneezing, coughing, kissing and sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes.
– Symptoms of meningitis includes a high temperature, feeling and being sick, aching muscles and joints, a blotchy rash that doesn’t fade when glass is rolled over it, a high temperature, feeling and being sick, aching muscles and joints.