By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A traumatised mum has revealed her holiday from hell after her baby girl nearly died from meningitis during a dream trip to Thailand.
After excitedly touching down in sunny Phuket in October last year, young mum Elisha Robinson, 24, never imagined her dream family holiday would turn into a living nightmare after taking then seven-month-old tot Lilliana on her very first overseas trip.
The stay-at-home mum, from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, and her plasterer partner Jai, 25, were ready to spend the next month relaxing in Thailand with close family and friends when Lilliana came down with a slight fever halfway through the trip.
She took the tot to a local hospital to get checked out but after being discharged with paracetamol hoped the fever would settle – before Lilliana suddenly lost consciousness and turned blue just four hours later.
The horrified parents rushed their baby girl back the hospital, where she was diagnosed with meningococcal disease – a life-threatening combination of bacterial meningitis and sepsis – while her tiny legs became ravaged by an ominous purple rash that broke out into open wounds as her skin turned gangrenous.
Once stable, little Liliana was airlifted from Phuket to the capital Bangkok, where heroic surgeons painstakingly removed the dead and dying tissue from her legs in the hope that it would save her from needing amputations.
Almost half a year later, Lilliana has undergone further skin graft surgeries, steroid injections and extensive physiotherapy to restore function to her legs but amazingly celebrated her first birthday this month – a milestone Elisha said she feared she might never get to see.
Elisha said: “We had been so excited for this holiday because going away together as a family is something we do once a year.
“It was something we’d planned and saved towards for months. Lilliana was surrounded by love, and we were so happy. It was everything you’d want from a holiday.
“But halfway through, Lilliana woke up with a fever. We went to the hospital where they gave us paracetamol. I hoped this would help, but just four hours later I was laying on the couch with her and she was burning up.
“Her lips and fingernails started going blue, and she just went limp and lost consciousness. We rushed her back to the hospital and that was the beginning of our nightmare.
“The doctors told us she had meningococcal and that she was going to die.
“I couldn’t believe it. She was well and happy in the morning and dying by lunchtime.”
After a gruelling two weeks in intensive care, Lilliana and her family were flown back home to Australia in November 2018 in order to begin the long road to recovery.
Thankfully, the distraught parents had all their medical bills and travel expenses covered by Zoom Travel Insurance, who paid over $113,000AUD [£60,650] in claims for the family.
Elisa said: “There is no doubt that Lilliana has got a long road ahead of her. But I’m just so proud of her.
“At the end of the day, she is lucky to still have her leg and her life. We’re so thankful that she is still here with us.
“Celebrating her first birthday felt like a dream. It wasn’t long ago that this was a birthday we never thought we’d see.
“Now we want to help other parents learn about meningococcal, and what they can do if it touches their lives.
“I hope Lilliana’s story can help anyone else ever having to go through this.
“I was so thankful that we took out insurance with Zoom before we left home. It played a major role in saving our baby’s life.
“I don’t know what we would have done without it. My baby was dying and Zoom made us feel less alone.
“To parents who think about travelling uninsured: don’t. It could mean the difference between life and death.”
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that causes blood poisoning or inflammation of the lining of the brain – with infection generally requiring close and prolonged contact with a person carrying the bacteria.
Director of Meningococcal Australia, Eliza Ault-Connell, said: “The period between onset of first symptoms to being critically ill can be a matter of hours. You can seem healthy at breakfast and be dead by dinner.
“The symptoms may include sudden onset of fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain, a rash of red-purple spots or bruises, dislike of bright lights, nausea and vomiting.
“Not all symptoms may be present at once, and young children may have fewer specific symptoms, including irritability, high-pitched crying and refusal to eat.”
For more information about the travel insurance used by Lilliana’s family, visit www.zoomtravelinsurance.com.au