Melissa Mead and her partner Paul lost their beloved baby son William to sepsis.
Melissa , 31, recalls putting the little boy to bed the night before he died.
Placing his tiny arm around his reindeer, she told him: "Goodnight sweetheart, I love you."
It was tragically the last time she ever got to speak to William.
Below, she and Paul , 34, bravely share their story to alert other parents…
Our son William was truly our “miracle” baby. After suffering benign ovarian tumours and losing one-and-a-half of my ovaries, I tried for eight years to have him.
He was born on November 27 2013, weighed 7lb 11oz and was healthy. I remember looking at him in my arms at Treliske Hospital in Cornwall and thinking how perfect he was.
William was our dream come true and he grew into a calm, happy tot, so loving and cuddly.
In September 2014, he started nursery and, soon after, got scarlet fever and tonsillitis. The doctor cheerfully told us it was because he was now mixing with other kids and gave him antibiotics.
He recovered but he developed a chesty cough, so I took him to the doctor who told us it was viral and he didn’t need antibiotics as it would work through his system.
But the cough never went away. In November, I sought a second opinion when William started vomiting after eating.
This doctor gave him an inhaler to open his airways and told me it was viral.
The inhaler did nothing and he started vomiting more frequently. Another doctor told us he had reflux, so I tried not to worry.
On December 12, he was sent home from nursery with a temperature of 40.1. I gave him Calpol but his temperature rose, so I got an emergency doctor’s appointment.
The doctor told me he had a viral infection and nothing “grisly”.
Next morning he was pale and clingy, so I called 111, who classed him as non-urgent and reassured me he would be okay.
I remember that night I put William to bed and I put his chubby little arm around his reindeer.
“Goodnight sweetheart, I love you,” I said. It was the last time I ever got to speak to my son.
I checked through the night and he was sleeping. At 8am, I checked the baby monitor.
William had his back to the camera, so I snuck into his room. I stroked his cheek and it was warm, but he didn’t stir.
I put my arm through the cot bars and stroked his side but he was stiff. Panicked, I opened the curtains and to my horror, it was obvious that he had passed away.
I remember screaming: “He’s not breathing, he’s dead!”
Paul ran in, scooped William up and started CPR while I was on the phone to paramedics.
The ambulance arrived in under seven minutes but my gorgeous boy was already gone. I couldn’t understand it.
At the hospital, I handed him over to the mortician and then we left without our son. It was the most terrible day of our lives.
The next day – Monday – Paul and I should have got married. Instead, we were mourning the loss of our little boy. We cried and held each other for hours.
A couple of days later, the coroner called and told us that there was going to be an inquest.
Apparently William had had double pneumonia, a collapsed lung, fluid in his left lung and he died of sepsis – blood poisoning.
Sepsis is the body’s reaction to severe infection. It shut down William’s organs because a bacterial infection in his chest that developed into pneumonia was never treated.
Had he been given antibiotics, he would probably never have developed sepsis.
That first year after he died I fell apart. I had severe anxiety, I couldn’t work, eat or function.
I blamed myself – could I have done something differently? NHS England found 16 failings in care and four missed chances to save William.
I researched sepsis and learned it is the third biggest cause of death in the UK – and that, if caught early enough, is treatable.
In other words, William could have been saved. That’s why I joined the UK Sepsis Trust as an ambassador to raise awareness.
Paul and I decided we wouldn’t actively try for another baby because it felt like a betrayal of William. Incredibly, in February 2016 we found out I was pregnant.
We were thrilled but it was bittersweet. What if this baby looked like William or had the same mannerisms?
How would we cope with this constant reminder that William was gone?
Arthur was born on September 27 2016, weighing 7lb 11oz. I had terrible anxiety but when he was placed in my arms, I sobbed as the significance of his birth sank in.
I credit Arthur with saving my life. He has given us hope, allowed us to love openly again, to smile again. I know I will see William again and that’s a great comfort.
I still get angry that the system failed William. I will never get to hear him say he loves me.
But Arthur has given me a path forward. Now I work with the University of Nottingham on a campaign to raise awareness of sepsis and to look at quicker diagnosis.
Parents have contacted me through the UK Sepsis Trust to say reading about William helped save their child. It makes me so proud.
William will never be forgotten and I believe he lives on in the lives of every child his story saves.
You can donate to UK Sepsis Trust in William’s memory here .
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