'Just 24 hours after leaving toddler Ruairí at crèche, he was gone'
An Irish mother who lost her six-month-old son to meningitis has spoken out about the tragedy.
Margaret Smart from Wexford and her husband Robert were thrilled when they welcomed two healthy baby boys into the world.
"I came quite late to motherhood. I was 43 when I had my first baby [Micheál] and I was 45 when I was pregnant with Ruairí," said Margaret, who was speaking ahead of World Meningitis Day on April 24.
The family were delighted when Ruairí arrived in May 2012. Ahead of her return to work after maternity leave, Ms Smith placed Ruairí into a local crèche.
On November 22, 2012, Margaret received a call from the crèche to say Ruairí was feeling unwell. The couple's eldest son Micheál had recently been ill with chicken pox and Margaret believed Ruairí might have come down with the virus.
Ruairí was taken to A&E in Wexford General where he was placed on IV fluids and anti-viral drugs.
"His CT scans and blood work were all clear. They couldn't find anything wrong," she said.
As the evening progressed, however, six-month-old Ruairí's condition declined rapidly.
It was decided he needed specialist care in Temple Street's Intensive Care Unit, and he was rushed to Dublin in an ambulance. A CT scan revealed swelling on his brain, and attempts to alleviate this pressure were unsuccessful. Just 24 hours after dropping their baby to crèche, Ruairí's parents were told their son was "clinically gone" and would never recover.
"It's incredible because one morning you're just doing normal things like getting the kids out the door to crèche and the next you're looking at your baby on a life-support machine," she said.
"You're looking at his little chest moving up and down ... but he's gone. You just are thinking, 'This can not be real'."
It was later established that Ruairí had died after a battle with pneumococcal meningitis.