A girl whose tiny body was ravaged by sepsis as a baby has finally said her first words – telling her mother ‘I love you’.
Layla Astley, now three, developed the life-threatening condition at just 13 weeks old after it was triggered by a water infection.
Also known as blood poisoning or septicaemia, doctors feared the worst, as her devastated parents, Hayley, 34, and Matt, 35, prepared themselves to say goodbye to their new born baby.
But miraculously after a dramatic 24 hours spent fighting for her life, the tot pulled through.
However, fighting the deadly condition caused her to suffer developmental delays, including her speech.
She learned how to communicate through using her hands – in a type of sign language known as Makaton.
But much to her parents’ delight, Layla has finally spoken her first words – including ‘I love you mummy’.
Layla Astley, now three, developed sepsis – a life-threatening condition triggered by an infection – at just 13 weeks. It delayed her speech but she has finally been able to tell her mother Hayley ‘I love you’
Tiny Layla Astley was just 13 weeks old when her body was ravaged by the deadly infection
Mrs Astley described Layla as her ‘little miracle’ after she beat the odds and battled to survive.
‘When Layla went into septic shock her whole body was white and swollen, I thought she was dead and Matt and I prepared ourselves for the worst,’ she said.
‘But she is such a fighter and after she made it through the first 24 hours Layla gradually made huge improvements and was placed on antibiotics for a year to ensure it didn’t return.’
Despite hitting all of her other milestones, the severe infection caused Layla to suffer development delays with her speech.
Unlike other children her age, she wasn’t able to talk to others at nursery.
‘I was really worried so decided to learn Makaton and we started to sign in the hope this would encourage Layla’s speech,’ said Mrs Astley.
‘She took to it really well and has since been able to put her first sentences together.
‘It’s been amazing to hear Layla finally have a conversation with her sister, Lilly-Mai, and as a mother it’s so special to hear your daughter tell you that she loves you.’
Sepsis can be triggered by any bacterial or viral infection and causes the immune system to go into overdrive – and affects more than 19 million people worldwide.
It can reduce the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Doctors told Layla’s devastated parents to ‘say goodbye’ as they feared she would not survive. But after a fraught 24-hours, she showed signs of improvement
The deadly blood poisoning, triggered by a water infection, quickly took hold of her body
Layla went into septic shock and her heart rate rose to 207 beats per minute before doctors were able to stabilise her
The condition can strike fit and healthy patients of all ages but is most common in children under one, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses.
In this case, Layla’s temperature rose and her body became white and swollen so the worried parents took her to A&E to get checked over.
SEPSIS: THE SILENT KILLER
Sepsis can be triggered by any bacterial or viral infection and causes the immune system to go into overdrive – affecting more than 19 million people worldwide.
Doctors and nurses in the UK must treat sepsis with the same urgency as heart attacks, the NHS watchdog ordered in July.
They must ask themselves ‘could this be sepsis?’ whenever they see patients with a rash, high temperature or raised pulse.
Tragic: William Mead died from sepsis
Anyone suspected of having the deadly condition – also known as blood poisoning or septicaemia – must be sent to hospital via emergency ambulance and be seen immediately by a senior doctor or nurse.
NICE’s first-ever guidelines for diagnosing and treating sepsis follow a damning report into the death of one-year-old William Mead in 2014 which exposed a string of NHS failures.
NICE confirmed that William’s death had resulted in the guidelines being published far earlier than planned.
The watchdog started drawing up the recommendations early in 2014, before William died, amid concerns that thousands of patients were dying needlessly.
Whilst there, she went into septic shock and her heart rate rose to 207 beats per minute.
‘Layla was rushed into theatre to be anaesthetised, when we saw her she was still white, swollen, and naked and she was surround by wires which were hooked up to a machine.
‘She looked so peaceful, and it hurts me to admit it but she looked dead, this is when doctors told us they thought it was meningitis, I couldn’t believe it.
‘On Mother’s Day we were transferred to London where Layla had one on one care and a lumber puncture revealed that it was in fact sepsis.
‘We had no idea what this meant and so googled it there and then, the results were terrifying and we read she had six hours to live.
‘Over the next 24 hours it was touch and go but eventually the antibiotics kicked in and six days later she was discharged.’
But this wasn’t the end of their ordeal, Layla later developed a blood clot in her right leg and Mrs Asley was forced to inject her daughter twice a day for six weeks to avoid amputation.
As well as being placed on a year long course of antibiotics to prevent further urine infections, Layla had to have daily blood tests at the hospital and her immune system became extremely weak.
‘At the time we weren’t aware that Layla could develop complications from having sepsis, but over the past few years Matt and I, along with her nursery teachers, noticed a huge delay in her speech.
‘Whilst waiting for an appointment with a speech therapist I decided to teach myself Makaton and as a family we gradually started to incorporate it into our daily lives.
‘We didn’t sign every word, and we would speak the sentences as we signed, but by doing this Layla’s vocabulary started growing.
‘Over the past few weeks Layla has started to string simple sentences together about nursery and likes to make up silly phrases – but they make sense and that’s all that matters.
‘We are currently waiting for an intense four week course of speech and language therapy which will hopefully help her communication progress even more.
Layla has finally said her first words after her traumatic fight for life caused speech delays
Now Layla can talk to sister Lilly-Mai, 11, (left) and parents Hayley and Matt after suffering from severe speech delays as a result of her fight for life as a baby
‘Matt and I do spoil her as we know we may never have had the chance to, we make the most of our time together and we are making so many memories that we never thought we would be able to.’
Dr Ron Daniels BEM, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: ‘Stories like Layla’s remind us of the devastating human cost of sepsis, individuals and families have their lives torn apart each day in the UK by this condition, and a quarter of survivors suffer lasting consequences – just like Layla.
‘In adults and children alike, sepsis causes psychological problems including post-traumatic stress disorder and we believe this can result in developmental delay, particularly in young children.
‘Earlier recognition and treatment of sepsis can mean hugely improved outcomes for those affected, so this September, Sepsis Awareness Month will play a key role in spreading the word.’