Life Health Features

Saturday 22 July 2017

'Another 12 hours and Anabel would have died' - Mum's meningitis scare as baby daughter battled for her life

Farrah Tayob
Farrah Tayob

Laura Lynott

She is a "mischievous" bundle of energy, according to her doting mother, but less than two years ago Anabel Murtagh was 12 hours from death.

Today, a bright and giggly 20-month-old, Anabel earned the nickname "warrior princess" from mum Farrah Tayob because she fought deadly meningitis and septicaemia in Temple Street Hospital for over a week.

The 37-year-old mum from Churchtown told the Herald: "Every night I tiptoe into her room, the quietest I could possibly be, and Anabel always wakes up and she just stares up at me. She's so mischievous, but she's my warrior princess, so she gets away with it."

In January last year, when Anabel was only five-and-a-half months-old, the adorable little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl woke up one night with a slight temperature.

Farrah did what any mother would and administered the old reliable, Calpol, before taking her daughter to bed with her.

Instead of sleeping soundly, the baby began tossing and turning and, in the morning when her big brother, Alexander (7), went to give Anabel the usual kisses he showered on her, the infant began screaming.

Farrah Tayob with her children
Farrah Tayob with her children

By evening the baby's temperature had gone up a little and she was still irritable, but Farrah was unable to get a doctor's appointment and was assured it was probably just teething.

But by night-time Anabel had started screaming again and, although there were no symptoms, no visible rashes and she didn't notice that she was irritated by light, Farrah decided she would take the baby to the hospital.

"Something kicked me in the stomach, a sense, and I just knew I didn't want to be anywhere else but in a hospital with my child," Farrah said.

"You don't want to be a time-waster taking a child to hospital, but I just knew something was very wrong.

Meningitis: Rash doesn't fade under pressure is a cause of concern
Meningitis: Rash doesn't fade under pressure is a cause of concern

"As soon as we started driving to the hospital, she started being sick in the car and by the time I arrived at A&E she was limp and her lips were blue.

"There were no visible symptoms of meningitis but, thank God, this nurse spotted two pin pricks on each of Anabel's legs and knew it was septicaemia.

"The doctors started pumping antibiotics into her even before they knew what was wrong.

"It turned out Anabel had a very rare form of meningitis, the w135 strain, and my son, who had just come back from a family holiday in Dubai had been the carrier, but had not been sick.

"The doctors asked who had been within kissing distance of Anabel the past week and I said only me and Alexander, and then I realised the kisses he always gave his baby sister had actually caused her to be so very ill.

"Thank God he didn't get it too. The doctors told me if I'd waited 12 hours, which it would have been if I'd waited to get a GP appointment, I would no longer have had Anabel.

"This was a particularly aggressive form of meningitis and it raided her little body. It took her almost a week to fight it, but she did. Anabel fought with all her might, my little warrior princess."

Farrah's advice to other parents is that, even if you don't spot any obvious signs, you should act "on your gut" if you see something is very wrong.

"I had been watching One Born Every Minute the week before this happened and saw a baby get meningitis and that child went on to need lifetime care," Farrah said.

"I remember sitting there crying and I realise now that show helped save my daughter's life because I really took that in.

"I knew there was something seriously wrong with my baby because her whole personality changed - the Calpol didn't work and she was cranky.

"Someone was watching out for me and her."

Just over a week after coming so close to death, little Anabel was back to her normal self, sitting up, laughing and blabbering.

"My friend was visiting her and Anabel just started giggling when we were laughing," Farrah said.

"I said, 'That's my girl'. I knew she was getting better then."

Sometimes it seems Anabel takes the "warrior" part of her nickname a little to heart.

"Her brother still gives her kisses but sometimes, if he's irritating her, she'll give him a punch on his nose," Farrah said, laughing.

"She has a lovely personality, I'll give out and she takes a fit of giggles. She's my miracle baby, my little strong girl.

"I do still worry sometimes because she had two hearing tests and the first one was inconclusive as she was too young and the second she failed, but she had a cold so there would have been fluid in her ears.

"So we have another one in August,but I'm sure she'll be fine. I always check on her to make sure she's sleeping, but she always wakes up. She just doesn't want to miss a thing."

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