A couple who lost one of their identical twin baby sons to flu are campaigning alongside KGH for people to be vaccinated to prevent such tragedies happening to others.
Nikki Shaw, 32, and Dan Rowe, 36, from Market Harborough, had their sons Ned and Gus on December 7, 2018, at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
The twins went home with their parents as normal and everything was fine for the next six weeks.
On the morning of January 24, 2019, Ned woke around 6am and fed normally - but within minutes Nikki noticed something was wrong.
She said: “Ned had suddenly become cold, grey and floppy. We acted quickly and dialled 999 and started CPR right away.
“The paramedics arrived within minutes and we were rushed to Kettering General Hospital where the team managed to bring our baby back - but he was in a critical condition and had to be on a ventilator.”
Ned was transferred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridgeshire later that afternoon as the closest place where there was a paediatric intensive care bed available.
Dan, a secondary school teacher, said: “While we were there they did a virus screen on Ned. They found that he had the flu virus and had a rare complication of it.
“The damage caused by the effects of the virus had been too much. There had been a very specific, but significant, effect to one part of his brain which controlled his breathing. He couldn’t sustain his own breath.”
Nikki, a deputy head at a local school, said: “We spent 12 days in total at Addenbrookes with Ned on life support.
“When they diagnosed the complication we realised that our seven-week-old baby wasn’t ever going to get any better - and he wasn’t going to come home to his brother.
“On February 4 we made the decision that we would let the doctors remove the tube connected to the ventilator to maintain his breathing artificially - to see what he could do for himself.
“He managed to survive for a short while after extubation - but then he couldn’t any more. He passed away in our arms at 1.57 in the afternoon.”
In the 2018/19 flu season England saw 2,924 people admitted to intensive care/high dependency units because of the flu. Ned was one of 1,692 people who lost their lives to flu in the 2018-19 flu season. He was one of only three infants (0-4 years) to die.
Nikki had received the flu vaccination during her pregnancy which would have protected Ned from the most common forms of flu. Sadly he had developed a less common strain.
While vaccination did not protect Ned clearly it does protect a very large number of people from the virus – which can be deadly in all its forms. In 2018-2019 some 11.7million people in England were vaccinated against it.
Dan said: “How many times we had that conversation – it’s just the flu. People underestimate the impact it can have and just how serious it can be.”
Nikki said: “By telling Ned’s story I want people to know how serious flu is. I want people to know how deadly it can be. I want people to know and I want people to talk about Ned. I want them to know what happened to him.
“I want them to take our message out into the world and I want them to get vaccinated. And I want them to get their friends vaccinated, and their family vaccinated.
“There is no reason why you shouldn’t have a vaccination if you are able to have one.
“Ned’s twin baby brother Gus is nine-and-a-half months old now. He is a beautiful reminder of everything that we could have had with Ned.
“He is our entire reason to be some days and I don’t want him put at risk. I am going to have him vaccinated as soon as we are able to.
“I will be encouraging every mum, in every play group we go to, to have their vaccination, to have their children vaccinated. Because the worst has happened to us.”
Nikki and Dan have worked with Kettering General Hospital to produce a video called Ned’s Story which will be used across the hospital from October 7 to the end of December as part of the Trust’s annual staff flu vaccination campaign. It will also be available via the Trust’s Facebook page to inspire local people to have the flu vaccination right away.
The couple are also supporting the national flu awareness campaign and its key messages.
Kettering General Hospital’s Medical Director, Prof Andrew Chilton, said: “We very much hope that Ned’s Story will help people to fully understand just how serious the flu can be.
“While most people recover from flu some will not. Younger people and older people – especially those with certain long term conditions – can be especially vulnerable.
“Getting vaccinated is very important. The more people who are vaccinated the greater immunity is created within the community. This makes it harder for flu to spread and cause the damage that it does every year.
“On behalf of the Trust I want to say how very grateful we are to Nikki and Dan for having the courage to share Ned’s Story to help prevent the spread of flu within our hospital, within our local community and across the country.
“I really hope that Ned’s Story helps to persuade a lot more people to have themselves and their families vaccinated.”
Kettering General Hospital’s Chief People Officer, Mark Smith, said: “We are aiming to honour Ned by having at least 80% of our front line staff – some 3,000 staff – vaccinated against the flu.
“We also want to raise awareness to promote vaccination to vulnerable groups within the local community by supporting Ned’s Story and national initiatives.”
Public Health England/NHS England’s national campaign will highlight the importance of flu vaccination to key groups.
- Children aged 2-10/11 – Parents can protect their children by ensuring their children receive their vaccine in reception or school as a nasal spray
- Children aged 2 and 3 can be vaccinated at their GP surgery
- Pregnant women – Can get the vaccine through their GP surgeries or through pharmacies and some NHS facilities. You should have the vaccination whatever stage your pregnancy is at
- People aged over 65
- People with long-term health conditions - such as heart disease, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy - should also ensure they have their vaccination through their GP or pharmacy.
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