A heartbroken mum has relived the final few hours of her toddler’s tragically short life.
Joanne Mills spoke of the moment she lost toddler Alfie Fleming to meningitis, as she prepared to mark the first anniversary of his death yesterday.
The blue-eyed youngster, from Thornton, lost his short fight against the killer infection just hours after doctors sent him home with a suspected stomach bug.
Now, after spending the past 12 months raising money in his memory, Joanne has opened up about her nightmarish ordeal in the hope of preventing further tragedies.
The sales worker also wants to get a new vaccine, given to babies born after August this year, made available to all children under the age of five.
She said she hopes to work with her MP Paul Maynard and added: “I will do anything. If I could save just one child it will be worth it.”
Alfie, who was two years old and 10 month and described by Joanne as ‘very very happy, well-mannered, and intelligent’, was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital last November after he started being sick, but was sent home with medication and orders to rest.
Joanne said that despite him only showing symptoms of a stomach bug, her motherly instincts told her something was seriously wrong.
The 43-year-old said: “I couldn’t put my finger on it. There was a look in his eyes and I just knew he was more poorly than they said, but I could not say they were wrong because it was just a hunch.”
Joanne and Alfie’s dad, David Fleming, took the youngster home, where he spent the night being sick until 5am when he fell asleep.
Joanne said she left him to rest until around 8.30am, when she went into his bedroom and found him unresponsive and covered in a purple rash, later found to be septicaemia, or blood poisoning.
She called 999 and Alfie was raced back to hospital, where an army of doctors were on standby for his arrival.
Joanne said: “They put him in an induced coma to help him fight but his hands and legs were black. Within hours doctors said he would lose an arm and maybe a leg and have suspected brain damage if he survived.”
Then Alfie’s tiny heart stopped beating.
Doctors revived him and arranged to send him to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool for specialist treatment but, halfway there, his heart failed again.
Paramedics pulled over and fought desperately to save Alfie’s life as Joanne watched on. She said: “They did CPR for 10 minutes but they couldn’t bring him back. One of the doctors looked at the other and they both had tears rolling down their cheeks.
“They told me to go and hold his hands. He had gone.”
Joanne and David’s world fell apart, but they quickly set their sights on creating a lasting legacy for Alfie by raising money in his name.
The pair – through Alfie’s Forever Fund – have raised almost £12,500 for Meningitis Now through a series of events, and are planning more. But with the anniversary looming, Joanne admits to finding life hard, especially with Halloween and Bonfire Night bringing back bittersweet memories. She said: “It has been a difficult year. Everywhere you go there are child-orientated things and you just think, ‘This time last year I was doing that’.
“It’s amazing how quickly things can turn on their head. I just want to hide this Christmas. It’s just horrible. People’s lives have just carried on but mine is just on pause. There is no reason to get out of bed in the morning anymore.
“I have been re-living the day I found him in my head. I had put it to the back of my mind but it’s all flooding back.”
Joanne said she has mentally prepared herself for a visit to Alfie’s former nursery, St Teresa’s in St Georges Avenue, Cleveleys, where children and staff wore orange outfits yesterday in exchange for a donation to Meningitis Now.
Joanne and David are also expected to visit to see a memorial bench placed in the nursery’s garden, which was created to help Alfie’s little friends come to terms with their own loss.
Nursery worker Stephanie Baldwin said: “Alfie was such a happy little boy and his loss is still felt by so many of us in the local community.
“He made a lasting impression on so many of the children here and we miss him greatly.”
Steve Dayman, who launched Meningitis Now in 1982 when his baby boy Spencer died from the disease, said: “What happened to Alfie highlights just how quickly meningitis can strike and how devastating it can be.
“Symptoms are so easily missed or mistaken as a common illness and the consequences can be heart-breaking.” Babies and children under five are most at risk of developing meningitis and each case should be treated as a medical emergency, the NHS says.
Symptoms include high fever, vomiting or a refusal to feed, display of agitation, drowsiness, floppiness or unresponsiveness, rapid breathing or grunting, an unusually high-pitched or moaning cry, pale, blotchy skin, a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it, and tense, bulging soft spot on their head.
Babies born after August this year are automatically given a jab that protects against the most common type of meningitis strain,Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said he would write to the home secretary to ask for more information on how the vaccine could be made available. He said: “I would be more than happy to meet with Joanne to discuss this with her. It sounds a sensible suggestion and I would urge her to contact my office. I look forward to meeting with her.”
To donate to Alfie’s Forever Fund, visit www.alfie-fleming.muchloved.com
n For more information on the disease or for a free symptoms information pack, call Meningitis Now on 01453 768000 or visit www.meningitisnow.org for the charity’s free symptoms app.