“Our little miracle.”
That is how Alison Woosey describes her five-year-old son, Jack, after he battled a life-threatening infection just days after he was born.
Jack was born on July 20, 2009, weighing 7lbs 5oz, after a normal pregnancy and delivery.
Mother and baby were discharged the next day and settled into their home on Fairview Drive, Adlington.
Alison, who is married to Neil and has an older son Harry, eight, said: “We came home and he was okay – everything seemed fine.
“But that first night he was very very quiet and wouldn’t feed.
“The next morning he still wasn’t feeding and we were quite worried at that point – not that there was anything terribly wrong but maybe that he was constipated.
“His stomach was heaving. We later found out his lung had collapsed.”
They called the midwife and when she saw Jack, she knew something was wrong and called an ambulance.
Alison, 40, said: “When she told me we needed an ambulance, I panicked.
“I knew there was a problem but I didn’t think it was going to be as dramatic as that. I knew he was ill because he wasn’t feeding, but I didn’t realise his life was at risk.”
Jack was rushed to Royal Preston Hospital, where his parents were told his lung had collapsed.
Doctors gave him antibiotics, while they identified what was wrong.
Jack’s heart was racing, his vital organs were struggling and a specialist anaesthetist had to intubate him.
He was taken by ambulance to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in the early hours of the following day, with his parents following behind.
Alison said: “We didn’t know what we would find when we got to Manchester. We didn’t know if he would make the journey.
“We went straight to intensive care and thankfully when we got there he was still alive.
“He had all these medicines and wires attached to him because they weren’t sure what it was.”
The next day, Alison and Neil were told Jack had meningitis and septicaemia.
It was later confirmed they had been caused by group B streptococcus (strep), a bacteria that can be passed to a baby during labour.
Most pregnant women with group B strep have healthy babies, but in rare cases it can cause serious illness and even be life-threatening.
Doctors also found Jack had bleeding and swelling to his brain.
Alison said: “He had brain damage. They told us that quite soon, but they couldn’t tell us what that would mean for him for a long time.”
Once doctors had identified the infection, Jack’s health started to improve, he was taken off the ventilator and his medicines were reduced.
“One day they said he was not going to die anymore,” said Alison. “It was such a weird conversation.
“I think it was about the fourth day.
“They said he would get better and better and we had to take it a day at a time.”
A speech therapist found Jack could feed and as he started to feed from Alison, he became stronger.
He stayed in intensive care for five days and in hospital for another three days, before he was able to go home.
Even then, Jack had to go to Royal Preston Hospital twice a day for antibiotics.
He beat the infection and his parents waited to see what impact it would have on his life.
Alison said: “He was quite weak and he didn’t do things at the normal time that he should. He didn’t lift his head up and support his own head for a while.
“He did reach all the milestones, maybe just behind where he should be.”
Jack made good progress and Alison and Neil celebrated every time he reached one of those milestones.
He is now five years old, attends Anderton Primary School and loves football.
He has problems bending the toes on his left foot and with short-term memory, but it is not known if they are linked to the illness.
Alison said: “The only thing he isn’t great at is his memory. We were told it could just be Jack or it could be the meningitis and the damage to the brain.
“He wears glasses, but his brother and dad do so it’s unlikely that it’s anything to do with that.”
And Alison is amazed that Jack has no serious health issues.
She said: “We call him our little miracle. It’s unbelievable that there is hardly anything wrong with him.”
Alison, a teacher on a unit for young mums, is now backing calls from charity Group B Strep Support for a national screening programme for the infection.
She said: “If I had known about it and they had done the test on me, I could have had antibiotics and this wouldn’t have happened.”
She had asked a midwife about the test while pregnant with Harry, after a friend in Canada tested positive, but was told it was not routine to test in the UK.
It is not known if Alison had group B strep while expecting Harry as he did not become ill.
She said she had tests for other conditions, such as down’s syndrome and HIV, but not group B strep.
Alison said: “All the things they test for might not kill the baby, but this one does.
“His life was hanging in the balance in that ambulance from Preston to Manchester.
“We were ridiculously lucky compared to other families whose babies have died or been disabled.”
And she believes the introduction of the test – and raising awareness of group B strep – will stop other families going through the same thing.
Alison said: “To me the most shocking thing is that I had heard of it and didn’t push for it because I didn’t know how serious it was.
“So many people have never heard of it and it’s such a risky thing.”