A British family is sharing the warning signs of sepsis after their newborn nearly died from the life-threatening complication while on vacation.
Rachel Millbank and her husband, Tim, 34, had set off for the English seaside with Elliot in March 2019 when they suddenly found him unresponsive and “gray” in appearance.
“It’s a terrifying vision I will never forget,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“When we arrived, he was lethargic and not his normal self — then, in the early hours of the morning, I found him with labored breathing and cross-eyed,” she continued. “All his limbs were tucked into his body, like the fetus position, so I went into absolute panic.”
The parents rushed him to the hospital, where the 10-week-old was eventually diagnosed with severe pneumonia and sepsis, which turned into Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.
Sepsis happens when the “immune system has a dangerous reaction to an infection,” according to The Cleveland Clinic.
Not only can sepsis damage tissues and organs, it can also cause blood clots in blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to certain organs, causing failure.
As Rachel described, symptoms of the scary complication include shortness of breath, fatigue, low heart rate, shaking and chills, confusion or agitation, and fever, among others.
Children under the age of 1 are at a higher risk for sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Millbanks recalled that Elliot seemed like he had a cold, with a cough and stuffed nose, before the trip.
They said they took him to the doctor, who said the newborn was fine, so they set off for the seaside.
His condition deteriorated quite quickly, landing him in a dangerous situation.
“It’s changed our lives forever,” Rachel said of the diagnosis.
After spending 13 days in the hospital, Elliot was transferred to another one due to the severity of his case.
There, he was put into a coma.
Elliot survived — but, according to the Sepsis Alliance, out of the 75,000-plus children who develop the condition in the US, nearly 7,000 of them will die.
“After a few days, he started to show signs of improvement, such as the necrotizing pneumonia mass shrinking on his chest,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“Luckily, after one week, he was able to come out of the coma — but he was awake for over 56 hours while they monitored him due to coming off the morphine, which was awful to watch.”
Nearly a month later, in April 2019, the newborn was finally able to come home, and he has made a full recovery — aside from some scarring on his chest and the directive to take extra precautions if he gets a cold.
Some kids aren’t as lucky, though — according to the Sepsis Alliance, 34% of children who survive the illness “experience a change in cognitive skills still at 28 days following their discharge from the hospital.”
Now 4 years old, Elliot is doing well.
“Elliot is happy, determined, and inquisitive now — such a strong-willed fighter who gave us a hell of a fright,” Rachel praised.
“His stubbornness does drive me crazy, but I’m convinced this is the reason he’s alive today.”
Now, dad Tim is raising money for the team that saved his son, the Sick Children’s Trust, by running 100 miles in September.
The Millbanks are also hoping to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
“It does make you think how fragile life is and how unexpected things can be,” Rachel told Jam Press.
“Tim and I went through something you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy, but we did come out stronger on the other side.”