A YOUNG family are facing an agonising Christmas as their baby daughter battles meningitis.
Simone Clark, 19, and partner Josh Merrington, 18, were hoping to spend Christmas Day together as a family after the birth of their first child, Lillia.
But the festive spirit descended into near-tragedy after the tot almost died when she stopped breathing.
The Southwick couple could only watch helplessly as their daughter battled the killer bug, spending the first two weeks of her life in a high-dependency unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Four weeks after her birth, she is still in the hospital’s neo-natal unit as she continues her recovery.
Now Simone, who lost twins in a miscarriage at the beginning of the year, and Josh face an agonising wait to see if Lillia will develop cerebral palsy.
“After my miscarriage in January with the twins, we really tried for a baby,” said Simone. “When I found out I was pregnant again, we were both really, really happy.
“We were allowed to bring Lillia home pretty much straight away, the day after she was born, and at that point we thought everything was fine.
“But then she started having problems during the day.
“We thought she was constipated, then that eased.
“Then early the next morning she stopped breathing in my arms as I fed her a bottle.
“We phoned an ambulance and my dad was trying to resuscitate her, trying everything while we waited for the paramedics. I was terrified.”
Following emergency treatment to bring her back to life, Lillia underwent a series of tests, which later revealed she had meningitis.
“After she was admitted to hospital, the doctors told us the next 48 hours would be decisive,” said Simone. “She would either live or die. We all feared she wouldn’t pull through.
“Most babies in her position are given a 50-50 chance of survival.”
It is understood Lillia, who was born 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.
“She was extremely poorly,” said Simone. “They took a fluid sample from her spine, which when it came back showed meningitis.
“The blood test showed that as well.”
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.
“She had to have a full blood transfusion, which took about two days,” said Simone. “We can’t thank the staff at the neo-natal unit and A&E enough. They have been amazing.
“She been through so much, but she’s a real fighter.
“We’ll have to wait to see if the condition has affected her limbs or movement. We don’t know if she will be able to walk.
“It will be six months to a year before we know that.
“But she’s responding well to treatment and she’s now stable.
“She won’t give up.”