Mother, 23, reveals her 17-day-old son suffered three cardiac arrests and might now have cerebral palsy after a drop of MILK got into his lungs while feeding
- Tonicha Spencer, 23, from Lincolnshire, told how son Bertie choked on milk
- The 17-day-old baby soon started turning blue and was rushed to hospital
- Liquid on his lungs had stopped him breathing properly, starving him of oxygen
- Eventually his heart rate picked up and against all odds Bertie pulled through
A mother has told of the emotional moment she said goodbye to her baby son after a drop of milk got into his lungs and he suffered three cardiac arrests.
Bertie Spencer choked on his bottle and inhaled the liquid, but his mother Tonicha, 23, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, thought nothing of it until he started to turn blue half an hour later.
The 17-day-old baby boy was rushed to hospital on July 21, where he suffered three cardiac arrests and Tonicha and his father, David, 25, were told to say their goodbyes.
The liquid had made its way to his lungs had stopped him breathing properly, starving him of oxygen and making his heart stop pumping.
But miraculously, as mother-of-two Tonicha urged him not to die, his heart rate picked up and against all the odds Bertie pulled through.
Tonicha Spencer, 23, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, has told of the emotional moment she said goodbye to her miracle baby son, Bertie, pictured, after a drop of milk got into his lungs and he suffered three cardiac arrests
Little Bertie Spencer choked on his bottle and inhaled the liquid, but Tonicha thought nothing of it until he started to turn blue half an hour later. Pictured: Bertie in hospital after his ordeal
Doctors told his astonished family that little fighter Bertie was a ‘miracle’.
Former customer services advisor Tonicha, who also has a daughter Darcie, one, said: ‘You never think this sort of thing could ever happen to you.
‘When we were in hospital, I remember thinking that it’s the sort of thing you see on TV.But I just feel so lucky that Bertie made it. We didn’t think he was going to survive at all.
‘The doctors just keep telling me Bertie is a miracle and they can’t believe he’s done so well, but it’s all down to the doctors and nurses that saved him. I owe them my life, because they saved his.
‘Because of them, we’ll be able to watch him grow up, and Darcie still has her beloved younger brother. I can never put into words how grateful I am.’
Bertie was born healthy, and was just 17-days-old when he choked on his bottled milk, causing him to inhale it, on July 21.
Doctors told his astonished family that little fighter Bertie was a ‘miracle’. Pictured: Tonicha and David with Bertie and their daughter Darcie
Initially his mother was not overly concerned but half an hour later his lips and mouth started to turn blue, before the colour spread across his face.
‘I just felt so sick with worry – I kept telling David that something wasn’t right,’ she explained. ‘We rang an ambulance, and as soon as the paramedics arrived and told us he urgently needed to get to A&E, we realised how serious it was.’
What is aspiration?
Aspiration is when something enters the airway or lungs by accident.
It may be food, liquid, or some other material.
This can cause serious health problems, such as pneumonia.
Aspiration can happen when a person has trouble swallowing normally. This is known as dysphagia.
It can also happen if a child has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is when the contents of the stomach come back up into the throat.
It is not known whether this particular condition is what caused milk too enter Bertie’s lungs.
Tonicha rode in the ambulance with Bertie, while David, a food supply factory worker, dropped her daughter Darcie, then aged 20 months, at her grandparents.
He then joined Tonicha at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, just as Bertie went into his first cardiac arrest, eight minutes after arriving.
The milk on his lungs stopped him breathing properly so his brain was starved of oxygen – causing the arrests.
‘It all happened at once,’ she said. ‘I was asked to leave the room just as about fifteen doctors and nurses sprinted in.
‘I was panicking and hysterical because I had no idea what was going on – but that was the moment he first went into cardiac arrest.
‘I just kept repeating ‘is he going to survive?’, but nobody could tell me, because they didn’t know the answer.’
After being in cardiac arrest for eight minutes, doctors managed to start little Bertie’s heart again.
He then suffered two more attacks, lasting three minutes each, and a nurse told the family they didn’t know what was going to happen.
‘I could barely believe what was happening. I was hysterical. I was in total shock,’ said Tonicha.
The family, including Tonicha’s mum, Claire Fitt, 46, were finally allowed in to see Bertie – but they were told to prepare themselves for the worst, and say their goodbyes.
An MRI scan showed Bertie’s brain had been starved of oxygen during the arrests, and there was some damage to the part that controls movement. But despite his ordeal, Tonicha said he still moves like a normal baby
Tonicha added: ‘He was lying on his bed completely naked, with wires sticking out of him while people did CPR. It felt like I was watching through somebody else’s eyes.
‘Even though he was unconscious, and wouldn’t have been able to understand me anyway, I felt like I should talk to him, so I did.’
What is cerebral palsy and how common is it in the UK?
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects a patient’s movement, motor skills and muscle tone.
It is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination and is caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during or soon after birth.
It affects around one in 400 children born in the UK to some extent.
In the US, approximately 8,000-to-10,000 infants are born with the condition each year.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy are not usually obvious just after a baby is born. They normally become noticeable during the first two or three years of a child’s life.
Symptoms can include:
- delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by 8 months or not walking by 18 months
- seeming too stiff or too floppy
- weak arms or legs
- fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
- random, uncontrolled movements
- walking on tiptoes
- a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities
The severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people only have minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.
Speak to your health visitor or a GP if you have any concerns about your child’s health or development. There’s currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help people with the condition be as active and independent as possible.
At the sound of Tonicha’s voice, Bertie’s heart rate began to pick up.
She said: ‘That was surreal. I remember at one point saying to him “Come on Bertie, you can’t die yet! We’re seeing Nanny and Grandad next week!” As his heart rate picked up, I just kept talking.’
He became stable, and after six hours in A&E, was moved to the intensive care unit, where he spent five days fighting for his life.
‘I had been asking constantly if he would be ok, because I had no idea,’ she said. ‘Finally, after five days, a doctor said to me that if he had to put money on it, his bet would be that Bertie would survive and get to go home.
‘Although he made it clear there was no guarantee, when he said that, I just burst into tears.
‘It was all I wanted to hear and it meant the world to me. I just needed something to give me hope.’
An MRI scan showed Bertie’s brain had been starved of oxygen during the arrests, and there was some damage to the part that controls movement.
Medics said he might have developed cerebral palsy, and struggle to walk or talk, but only time will tell.
Bertie had also sustained a severe chemical burn in his groin area, after an emergency adrenaline line put into his vein during his cardiac arrest leaked onto his skin.
Initially, medics feared they’d have to amputate his right leg, but instead he has had a successful skin graft.
Tonicha added: ‘Whatever the outcome was, the doctors and nurses did what they had to do to save my baby.
‘The doctors couldn’t tell us how severe his cerebral palsy will be when he’s older, but he’s doing well, which is a good sign.
‘They said he might not be able to drink properly or smile – but he’s already started drinking from a bottle again, and he smiles every day.
‘We don’t know how he’ll walk yet, but he moves like a normal baby, so it’s encouraging. Seeing him now, you’d never suspect anything was wrong with him! ‘Bertie really is a miracle, and we’re so proud of him.’
Now, a friend of the family has set up an online fundraiser on Go Fund Me for the family, to help cover the costs of building a sensory room for Bertie.
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