I was terrified when my daughter, Leiya, became ill, but when doctors revealed what was wrong I felt like I was in a horror film… By Deanna Cooper, 25

Feeling Leiya’s forehead I frowned. She was burning up. It was the fifth day in a row my little girl had been ill and I was becoming increasingly concerned. 

Five days ago I had taken Leiya to the walk-in centre with a temperature and a rash. ‘It’s chicken pox,’ diagnosed the doctor, sending us away.

But I wasn’t convinced. As time went on, little Leiya only got worse. I felt sure it was more than just a virus. Ringing the hospital for the fifth time I demanded a second opinion.

‘It’s not chicken pox, I’m sure of it,’ I insisted. ‘She’s not breathing properly, I’m really worried.’

But the hospital staff were convinced the doctor’s diagnosis was right.

My pregnancy with 15-month-old Leiya hadn’t been easy. She had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome and as soon as she was born, she had major heart surgery.

It was devastating watching my beautiful baby in pain. But my little soldier pulled through and when I took her home weeks later, she recovered quickly and adapted well.

I knew Leiya better than anyone, and I was adamant this was more than just chicken pox. When Leiya’s rash disappeared, her temperature was still soaring and her breathing was getting worse.

My mum’s instinct kicked in and I rushed Leiya to hospital straight away. By the time we got there, Leiya was tachycardic and she was screaming in pain.

I felt completely helpless. ‘Please, you have to help her,’ I begged as doctors checked her over. ‘It’s just a throat infection,’ one medic said.

I was frantic and desperate, but all the doctors were dismissing Leiya’s symptoms as a simple infection. But poor Leiya’s screams told me different. Something was desperately wrong.

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ I refused to budge as medics tried to discharge us. ‘I’m not leaving until you find out what’s wrong with my daughter.’

Leiya writhed in pain on her bed and whenever I tried to touch her, she wouldn’t let me. It was devastating. I couldn’t even soothe her and I felt so powerless.

Finally, a senior doctor asked another consultant to look at Leiya and I watched as a look of alarm spread across his face.

‘Is Leiya’s leg normally this size?’ he asked.

I craned my head to look at Leiya’s left leg and was shocked by how much it had swollen. ‘No,’ I shook my head. ‘No, it’s not.’

The doctor took a closer look. ‘Could she have broken it?’ he quizzed. ‘No, not a chance. I’d know,’ I insisted.

Instantly, Leiya was booked in for an X-ray. My mind raced as I imagined all kinds of awful scenarios, so when the doctor confirmed there were no broken bones, I breathed a sigh of relief.

‘There is a shadow on the bone though,’ he went on. ‘We need to do an MRI. We’ll know more then.’

But it turned out there wasn’t time. Leiya’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and as the doctors sat me down, nothing could have prepared me for what followed.

‘Leiya has Necrotising Fasciitis, it’s a flesh eating bacteria,’ the doctor announced. I was stunned. My baby was being eaten alive by a bug.

But my shock gave way to terror as they gravely went on to explain little Leiya’s life hung in the balance.

‘Adults only have a 27% survival rate. I’m afraid it’s even lower for children,’ a consultant gently told me.

I prepared myself for the worst as Leiya was rushed for emergency surgery to drain her leg and have the infected parts removed.

But the bug was rampant and spreading fast. I was forced to watch, helpless, as the deadly bug devoured my precious girl.

All I could do was pray she would be ok and when surgeons told me the operation had gone well, I dared to hope.

But I had to face the fact that statistics weren’t on our side. ‘We’ve done the best we can, but her chances aren’t good. I’m sorry,’ the doctor told me gently.

Brave Leiya underwent operation after operation and I was horrified when she came back completely swollen, the size of a three-year-old.

Leiya was rushed to a bigger hospital as doctors fought hard to save her. As we drove to the hospital in the middle of the night I felt completely lost. How would I survive without my little girl?

We arrived at 5am and Leiya was medically induced into a coma so experts could treat her. ‘It’s better this way,’ they explained. ‘Leiya has also contracted sepsis and pneumonia alongside the flesh-eating bug.’

My daughter had the fight of her life on her hands and when doctors sat me down and told me Leiya could lose her leg, I didn’t have any tears left to cry.

I wasn’t even shocked - I was just dumbstruck. I had no idea how we were going to get through this.

But as I sat at my girl’s bedside I realised Leiya hadn’t given up. She’d fought through all of this. I couldn’t give up on her either.

She was a fighter and, despite all the doctors’ predictions, she defied the odds. The deadly bacteria was no longer spreading and little by little, she began to recover.

When she was brought out of her coma nine days later, I was overwhelmed with relief - and pride.

‘You’re mummy’s little fighter,’ I whispered to her. ‘I’m so proud of you.’

Eventually Leigha was moved into rehabilitation and when she was well enough, she was sent back to our local hospital.

‘Her leg is badly damaged, but it should recover well,’ the doctor smiled as he checked her over.

Leigha was alive - and she was going to be ok. I’d never been happier. After six agonising weeks, Leiya was finally discharged from hospital and I took her home.

Now three, Leiya is the happiest little girl. She goes to nursery three times a week and loves to play with her friends.

Although she suffers with a few health issues, Leiya keeps on smiling through them in that brave, cheeky way of hers.

I’m so proud of my little fighter - she beat the bug that was eating her alive.

Deanna was distraught when her little girl was attacked by a flesh-eating bug but, determined to raise awareness of the deadly infection, Sell My Story helped her achieve coverage for her story in a national women's magazine. If you've suffered from a shocking condition and want to highlight it in the press, get in touch with one of our team to find out how it works.


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