A teenage girl nearly died five times, had 81 blood transfusions, and was in a coma for three months after she came down with a ‘cold’ while on a school trip to France.
Nell Robbins ended up on life support thinking she had caught a cold while on a school trip to southern France – which later turned out to be pneumonia.
The plucky 14-year-old then suffered massive organ failure and almost died five times when infection ripped through her body.
Her mum Rachael Robbins, 49, even had to cancel her wedding to fly out to Montpellier to be at her bedside.
Nell was rushed to hospital with pneumonia after catching a rare bacterial infection and put on an ECMO life-support system because her lungs were not working properly.
The machine involves blood being taken out through the groin and neck before being oxygenated and put back in the body.
After suffering a second infection, thought to be from a hospital tube, doctors considered switching off the equipment keeping Nell alive.
Terrified Rachael, who lives in Rye Harbour, East Sussex, said: “It’s rare that when someone comes into contact with this infection it mutates into something deadly.
“No one knows exactly how it happened.
“Seeing her hooked up to the ECMO machine was so Frankenstein, but also so incredible to see it working.”
Rachael was due to get hitched to fiancé Seth Newsom on July 27 but had to cancel the ceremony when Nell was rushed to hospital on June 29.
And because her passport had already been changed to her new surname she had to beg passport staff to allow her on the flight to be at her bed side, where she was joined by Nell’s dad, Ben Robbins and her sister Bea, 21.
Ben said: “Initially it was just total shock and horror and it gradually got worse as she was put on to the life support machine.
“It was just a kind of nightmare from start to finish – it’s the worst thing you can imagine happening to your daughter.”
Rachael added: “As soon as I got to the hospital at 5am she was heavily sedated and we still had no idea what was going on.
“She was on the most extreme life support machine and because she is so small they had to put the cannula in an artery in her neck.”
It is not known how Nell contracted Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacterial infection that humans commonly come into contact with, but only rarely has a deadly impact.
The mum-of-three added: “The staff were amazing, they worked incredibly hard.
“They never gave up on Nell and it was down to their tenacity that she survived.
“At one point she was so bad we asked the doctors if they thought it was morally right to keep doing this or whether we should stop, but they were adamant she could be saved.
“It was only because one of the interns had been at the intensive care unit so had seen children pull though this kind of situation that they knew she could do it.”
The ‘miracle’ 14-year-old girl fought back against all the odds and is slowly making a full recovery after she opened her eyes for the first time on August 28 and began taking her first steps outside.
Rachael, who is still planning to get married next year, said: “It was very hard, it was like being given a death sentence every day, then the hangman coming back again tomorrow.
“There were so many times we thought we had reached the end.
“When she did wake up and start opening her eyes she couldn’t speak so started mouthing her favourite David Bowie song.
“But then to hear her say her first words ‘I love you mummy’ it was so amazing.
“Then gradually she started to get better. When she could finally come home that special feeling was like Christmas Day.”
Nell was on a trip with Rye College to a PGL activity centre in Ségries, north of Montpellier, when she became sick and got support from their whole community during her illness.
Rachael added: “People from all over the world were sending messages of support and my neighbours were round my house helping while it was going on.
“I want people to understand that there is hope out there, miracles do happen as they did with Nelly.
“So many people were praying for her and willing her to get better, everyone pulled together, there must have been something in that power.
“People in the village put up bunting to welcome Nelly home, it was really amazing community spirit.”
Rachael’s fiancé Seth Newson, 48, added: “It’s a bit of a miracle we’re all home again, she’s a miracle girl.”