When I had my daughter I was very careful who she came into contact with, before she was able to be fully vaccinated. I allowed close friends and family to visit but avoided public places, like the local shopping centre, because I knew she was at risk.
The first time we took Elyse out she was five weeks old and we went to a family gathering. We trusted our relatives to let us know if anyone there was not immunised, but as it turned out some of Elyse’s primary school aged cousins had chicken pox and gave it to Elyse.
Within a few days baby Elyse woke up with just one spot on her chest, but was feverish and unresponsive. I took her straight to my local doctor, where she was rushed to the Royal Children’s hospital and then put into an isolation unit. The doctors were unsure what it was, and as more spots appeared Elyse became even less responsive and extremely lethargic.
We all thought it could be anything from meningococcal to measles, or something else serious for a little five week old. I had no answers and Elyse was so ill I thought she was going to die. Her breathing and temperature had to be monitored hourly for negative changes. I spent a whole week without sleep.
The stress, lack of answers, guilt and sleeplessness brought on severe anxiety, which was later diagnosed as post-natal depression. Once we were home our baby girl was still not well and we had to wait an extra three weeks to get her six-week immunisations. This brought on more anxiety about further exposure to other illnesses.
Being a first time mum, guilt set in, as I felt that I had not protected my baby enough. I went through a really, really rough time and needed to be hospitalised for PND for over a month, having to resort to medications to deal with the post-traumatic stress.
I want to tell my story to show others how important it is to immunise children at all ages, the repercussions it can have for those too young to be immunised and the effect it can have on a whole family.
If my story can prevent even one family from being in such a terrible situation it would just mean so much to me.’