This post was written and posted by Amy Grigg on 5th July 2012 after her daughter caught measles. It’s the first time I’ve put a guest post up. This is an incredibly moving story and luckily, in this case, there’s a happy ending. I wanted to share it to highlight her story and the importance of the MMR vaccine.

Our daughter was exposed to measles on 15th June 2012; we went to visit a close friend after returning from holiday. Her son had been to the doctors that morning for his MRR, he had turned one that week, but he was sent home as he had a slightly higher than normal temperature and a slight rash on his neck, my friend was told it was not chicken pox or measles. The next day the same friend was throwing a birthday party for her son, his symptoms were that of a bad cold so she kept him asleep away from other children as she didn’t want to cancel with so many people invited and what she thought was a virus. On the Sunday morning her son woke covered in a red rash and was rushed to hospital to be diagnosed with measles. He was extremely poorly but allowed home to rest and get better as his condition was stable. As my daughter had been exposed to the measles virus the GP recommended we give her an early MMR so on the Monday morning she was given the vaccine in the hope that it would keep the measles at bay, or help her fight if she did contract it.

For the next week my daughter was happy and healthy; eating, sleeping and playing like any normal seven month old and even learnt to crawl. On Wednesday 27th June she became unwell with what I thought was a cold so I took her to see the GP who told me when seeing her records ”this is not due to the MMR this is a different type of virus, her chest is clear she is just tired and needs some rest with calpol”. I followed her instruction, but my daughter seemed worse over night and her temperature had risen so I took her back to the doctors’ surgery the next day and a different GP diagnosed a chest infection, she was given antibiotics and pain relief. The next day we saw a little improvement, her temperature was normal and she wanted to play.

Overnight she was very fractious and by the morning seemed unwell again and didn’t want to be awake or drink milk, by ten o clock I had noticed a small red rash on her neck. My partner and I were confused at this point to whether she could be suffering from measles or just reacting to the MMR as her symptoms were mild so we kept an eye on her.

By 11.30am the rash had spread to the back of her ears and under her chin and I was worried, I phoned the out of hour’s doctor and an appointment was booked at the hospital for 2.45pm. We dropped my 2 ½ year old son to my mum and drove to the hospital where we seen in the A and E department by two doctors who both agreed it looked like measles and her breathing rate wasn’t great so would we move to the children’s hospital where she could be observed by a paediatric. She was observed for around two hours and the paediatrician agreed it looked like measles with a chest infection but that she was coping and should go home to continue antibiotics with plenty of rest and that we should keep an eye on her temperature and breathing as well as keeping up her fluid intake. That night she was unwell but stable at home, the next morning she was fussy with her bottle, but she drank and calpol stabilised her temperature. We didn’t really know what we were dealing with; we knew we had a baby with measles so she would be very unwell.

She went for a nap at 1.30pm and slept very fitfully and at 3pm when she woke up her breathing had become scarily fast, her trachea was being sucked in and she was making a strange keening sound every time she breathed, my mum and I rushed back to children’s A and E. As soon as we arrived we were isolated and her observations were bad. She had a low temperature, fast heart rate and very low oxygen level – I could barely recognise the baby in my arms, I was truly petrified. A drip was put in to her hand for antibiotics and fluid, a chest x-ray was taken and tube fed in to her stomach, at this point I became worried for my daughters life. Through all of these procedures she was screaming and trying to fight back, it was very disturbing for me and my mum to have to watch. Once the chest x-ray was back the doctor concluded she had bi-lateral pneumonia as a result of complications with the measles so she would be moved to the high dependency unit.

Once moved, she was sedated and a large mask was strapped to her head to help give her oxygen and her lungs a break. I couldn’t
believe it when the doctor told me they wanted to keep her like that for 48 hours. She was naked but for a nappy with wires and tubes stuck all over her, I just couldn’t comprehend that I was looking at my child. For the first night she was touch and go, her breathing was still terrible even with the help and the doctors were worried for her. The consultant informed me at 11pm that she wasn’t where they wanted her to be, she wasn’t the worst she could be, but she wasn’t much better. I barely slept and stayed by her bedside just watching her chest sucking in and out at such a fierce rate, how could she cope when she so badly needed to rest but was working so hard to simply breathe?

But then by the next afternoon with a little extra help on the oxygen she started to breathe better and her body began to fight. She was given less oxygen and allowed a small amount of milk; the doctors seemed pleased and said she had begun to go in the right direction but they would like to keep the mask on for at least another 48 hours, longer than first anticipated. She stayed stable for the rest of the day and night, needing slightly more oxygen once she had fallen in to a deep sleep, the doctors assured us this was normal.

By Tuesday morning I could see signs of the baby I knew, her cry was back instead of the awful whimpering noises she could barely make before. When the sedation was low she was moving her arms and legs like she used to, I started to hope! The doctor visited at 11am and seemed very pleased with her progress he said she could go on to a different sort of ventilator where she wouldn’t need a huge mask and that they would stop sedating her and see how she got on. At 1pm she moved on to an oxygen canula and we waited for the sedation to wear off, she was very groggy and still slept for most of the day. After four hours she was moved out of the high dependency ward as she was breathing well, we were so pleased.

Her first night on the children’s ward was difficult as there is much less help and she was starting to be fed milk and medicine orally. At 1.30am she pulled her canula out of her hand so was taken off the drip to see if she could keep her fluids up. We slept until 6am, the larger amount of milk she had taken seemed to have a calming effect on her and when she woke she drank more, I was so happy and being able to hold and feed my baby had never felt so good.

Wednesday morning was miraculous, she was awake and interested in the toys I had bought for her, she was guzzling milk, taking her medicine and the oxygen canula was removed at 10.30am. The consultant told me that as long as she kept her oxygen levels up and fed well we could take her home that afternoon, I couldn’t believe it! If the original predictions had taken place she would still have been on a ventilator until then, instead she was ready to come home. She was successful in keeping her levels up and monitoring was stopped from 2.30pm, we left the hospital at 4.30pm with a very puffy, dazed, but much better baby.

Delilah had a very successful recovery from measles pneumonitis; this doesn’t always happen and at points doctors didn’t know if it would for her. Measles can affect many different parts of the body in very serious and possibly fatal ways. It may seem at times that I was complaining about GPs and doctors, but that is the last thing I am doing, I am just trying to show that because measles was almost wiped out due to high vaccine rates doctors are not used to seeing it. They can’t be trained in something that had become so rare and therefore can’t be blamed for misdiagnosis! My daughter has been one of the lucky ones; she may still have future health problems we are yet to find out. It is so important to vaccinate your child; it is completely unfair on the young and at risk groups if you don’t. If you really are totally against the MMR then make sure your child has the separate vaccines, stop others and yourselves from possibly going through what I have been through with my child. No parent should have to prepare themselves for the loss of a child when it could so easily have been prevented.

Please watch and read these links, couldnt have hoped for better coverage for Delilah!

From the local paper:

From BBC South East Today

Amy’s original blog is here