It's his legs... or his life

We were planning our big day, then disaster struck...

Published by: Dawn Murden
Published on: 26 July 2012

They say good things come to those who wait. Well, I felt like I'd been waiting a lifetime for my wedding! Me and my partner Wayne, 35, had been planning it for three years, yet something had always got in the way.
Wayne had broken his leg, then I'd fallen pregnant with Robbie. It was only now our little 'un was 21 months that we'd managed to set a date - in two weeks' time!
‘I hope Robbie's all right for the wedding,' I worried to Wayne. ‘He's got a temperature.'
‘I'm sure it's just teething,' he said. We gave him some Calpol, and he slept in our bed. But at five in the morning, Wayne nudged me awake.
‘Robbie's all swollen,' he panicked. ‘Call an ambulance,' I cried, chucking some clothes on. ‘It's an allergic reaction to something.'
By the time the ambulance arrived, Wayne's mum Linda, 53, was already there.
She stayed with our daughter Abbie, four, while we raced to the hospital. As soon as we got there, they put drips in his arms. Robbie started screaming. ‘Don't cry, sweetie,' I urged.
We waited outside as medics swarmed around him. This was more than just an allergic reaction.
Hours passed. Me and Wayne sat in silence, holding hands. Finally, a doctor came.
‘Robbie has meningitis,' he said. Oh God, oh God! ‘We've put him in an induced coma. He'll be here a long time. Go home, get some things.'
My poor baby! We raced home, ran around the house picking up things Robbie loved, things to comfort him. His favourite blue teddy, some comfy jimjams, a couple of story books to read to him... Then we hurried back to hospital.
A doctor was waiting for us anxiously. ‘It's not looking good,' he said. ‘There's just a five per cent chance he'll survive. We... we don't know how long he has left.' It took my breath away, like a thump in the stomach. Wayne virtually held me up as we stumbled to Robbie's side.
I barely recognised him. He'd swollen to three times his normal size, and drips and wires snaked across him. His organs were failing and he was on kidney dialysis... How would he ever get through this?
‘I feel so helpless,' I sobbed to Wayne.
We couldn't even touch him in case of infection. He made it through the night, though. Then the next, and the next. Was it good news? Or was his life slipping away? No one knew the answer. All we could do was wait and hope.
‘Come on, you silly sausage,' I urged. ‘You need to get better so I can take you and Abbie to the park.'
The wedding date came and went without a second thought. All that mattered was Robbie. His bruising seemed better, his body less swollen. ‘He's going to make it,' I told Wayne.
He didn't reply, just stared at Robbie's left foot poking out of the blanket. It was black, like charcoal. His fingers were the same colour, too.
‘His limbs are dying,' the doctor explained. ‘We need to cut away the dead parts and, with them, the poison.'
‘Will he lose his legs?!' Wayne asked, his voice shaking.
‘It's likely,' the doctor said. ‘But it could save his life.'
My big, strong man broke down. He loved playing football with Robbie in the garden. But we had no choice. It was our son's life, or his legs.
Nine hours later, surgeons had amputated his right leg above the knee, and his left below the knee. He'd lost three fingertips on each hand, too. But the infection had gone.
Me and Wayne held each other, relief mixed with sadness. Nervously, we peered at our little lad. My heart shattered when I saw his little stumps in bandages.
It seemed like no time since Robbie had run into the garden with my heels on, Abbie chasing behind. ‘What are you doing, you silly sausage?' I'd giggled.
‘I like your shoes better than mine,' he'd grinned.
Now, though, my little boy had no feet. But he was alive.
Soon, doctors had brought him round from the coma. His eyes flickered open... ‘Hello, darling,' I soothed.
But Robbie was like a baby again. He couldn't sit up, and just stared at his legs, so confused. Over the next few days, though, my boy started coming back.
Time to explain things to Abbie. I bandaged up a teddy like Robbie. ‘You know your brother had a nasty bug?' I said. She nodded. ‘Well, he had an operation to make him better. Now he has tiny legs, like this.'
She looked at the teddy, then gave him a big hug. ‘As long as I can still give him kisses,' she smiled. Phew!
After eight weeks in hospital, our brave fighter returned home. He got stronger by the day.
‘Robbie's chasing me!' Abbie squealed one morning. He could crawl faster on his stumps than he used to run! So brave.
A month later, he was fitted with prosthetic legs. ‘Just put them in front of him,' the nurse
said. ‘Let him get used to being around them.'
So I did. At first, he just poked them. Then... ‘What are they?'
‘Special robot legs,' I said.
‘For me?' he beamed.
Next thing I knew, he'd got them on. He was wobbly at first but, with the help of physiotherapy, he soon became confident. That's when me and Wayne had an idea.
Wayne sat him down. ‘Before you got ill, me and Mummy were getting married,' he told him. ‘We'd like you to walk down the aisle with us in your robot legs.'
‘Yeah!' he beamed excitedly. He couldn't wait to be a part of our big day. So, exactly a year after Robbie developed meningitis, he was the pageboy at our wedding. Wearing a black tuxedo and red tie, he walked ahead of us in church with a walking frame for support.
‘Don't cry,' Wayne whispered to me at the altar. But I couldn't help it. I'd waited so long for this special day, and it meant everything to have Robbie there.
‘It's the best wedding I could have asked for,' I grinned back.
Now, Robbie is five and has started school. He's going from strength to strength, and he never lets his little legs hold him back!
It's funny, I always thought getting married was what I'd been waiting for. But I've realised now that what I'd
always wanted was the perfect family. With Robbie, legs or
no legs, I've got that.
Jill Jones, 32, Bowburn, County Durham