IT’S the day Simone Clark has been praying for – her baby’s safe return home after a desperate battle with meningitis.
The 19-year-old and partner Josh Merrington, 18, were struck by near-tragedy when their newborn daughter Lillia nearly died when she stopped breathing.
The Southwick couple could only watch helplessly as their baby battled the killer bug, spending the first two weeks of her life in a high-dependency unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Now, more than 13 weeks after her birth, Lillia is finally back home after winning her fight for survival.
“We’re so happy she’s back,” said Simone. “It’s a day we feared we would never see.
“She was in such a terrible state when she stopped breathing at home and was rushed into hospital.
“She also developed an infection, which made it even worse.
“She has been through so much.”
However, Simone, who lost twins in a miscarriage at the beginning of last year, and Josh now face an agonising wait to discover the scale of Lillia’s disabilities.
She has already been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy and fluid on the brain.
“It will be quite a while before we know what problems she will have,” said Simone.
“There is no way to tell how severe the cerebral palsy will be, whether it will affect her walking or mobility. We still have to go to hospital for weekly appointments and we have a community nurse visit us twice a week.”
Following emergency treatment to bring her back to life, Lillia underwent a series of tests, which later revealed she had meningitis.
After being admitted to hospital, she was initially given a 50-50 chance of survival.
“We’ve been given so much support,” said Simone. “The hospital staff have been fantastic. Everybody has been amazing.”
It is understood Lillia, who was born weighing 6lbs 1/2oz on November 23, developed meningitis after unwittingly being passed Group B Streptococcus from her mum. About one third of adults carry the bacteria, although for most it doesn’t usually cause problems and most babies will remain unharmed if their mother is infected.
However, for some tots it can be deadly, causing early birth, stillbirth, late miscarriage and complications.
Up to a third of babies who survive meningitis are left with long-term mental and physical problems, which can include sight and hearing loss and lung damage.
“We are just hoping the disability won’t be severe,” added Simone. “She is now feeding from a bottle, which we’ve been told is a good sign.”