A seemingly healthy 15-month-old girl died from meningitis just hours after her parents first noticed the killer bug’s tell-tale rash, it emerged today.
Devastated Nick Bate, 36, and wife Ruth, 31, rushed their daughter Willow to hospital as soon as they saw blotches appear on her chest.
But within an hour the tot was covered with a purple rash and doctors diagnosed her with meningococcal septicaemia.
Doctors at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent said she was too sick to be transferred to a specialist unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
The “happy, smiling” tot got weaker and weaker, her heart stopped three times and her family told she could be brain-damaged if she pulled through.
Her devastated parents were forced to make the agonising decision not to revive Willow for a fourth time.
She died in the early hours of last Friday morning just hours after the rash was first spotted the day before, Thursday January 10.
Nick, of Gillingham, Kent, said: “Until the rash there were no symptoms, but by then I knew it was too late.
“After her heart stopped the final time, they asked if we wanted to try again. We said ‘no’. That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Mum Ruth said: “She was a happy, healthy little girl, always smiling, and that’s how we all want to remember her.
“We know nothing could be done for Willow because it happened so fast. At one point there were 15 nurses around her.
“If there is any chance we can prevent what has happened to us happening to anyone else then we must try.”
Ruth had taken Willow to a doctor as she appeared “sleepy and lethargic” but the doctor could find nothing wrong with her.
When Ruth checked on Willow and her three-year-old brother Zak at home that evening, she noticed blotches on the little girl’s chest.
Firefighter Nick, a trained first-aider, recognised the symptoms and took her to Medway Maritime Hospital.
Doctors diagnosed Willow with meningitis and said she needed to be transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London for treatment, but she was not strong enough.
Willow was a flower girl for Nick and Ruth’s wedding last year along with her stepsisters Nicole, 10, and Keira, six, who were bridesmaids.
The couple have started a fundraising campaign for Meningitis UK in Willow’s memory and within days donations had topped £2,400.
Ruth added: “We started a Just Giving site on the day she died. I wanted something good to come out of it. I don’t want to be sad and I need something to focus on.”
Nick added: “The response has been amazing. It’s really helping us to get over something terrible.”
Willow’s funeral will be at the Garden of England Crematorium, Bobbing, on February 1, at 10am.
To make a donation, go to justgiving.com/Ruth-Flaxman