For Trowbridge couple Nadia Skinner and Tim Mason, the birth of their first baby was supposed to be a magical and cherished time of their lives.
But their dreams turned into a nightmare, as just hours after Keeley Eva was born at Chippenham Community Hospital she stopped feeding and was rushed to the Royal United Hospital in Bath for emergency treatment.
Unbeknown to her, Miss Skinner, 21, was carrying the bacterial infection Group B Streptococcus (GBS) which was passed on to Keeley during the birthing process, causing her to develop GBS meningitis hours later.
The couple, who both work at Alert Systems Ltd in Trowbridge, said this week they had no idea what the infection was and that Miss Skinner was a carrier.
Following baby Keeley’s death in August, just over nine weeks after she was born on June 6, the couple now want to raise awareness of the condition as well as raise money for Meningitis UK.
Recalling the tragic chain of events which led to Keeley’s death, Miss Skinner said: “She was our first baby and it was mad, everything was happening so fast and we couldn’t understand what was going on.
“She was fine when she was born, but we were told that when I was actually giving birth she took this Group B streptococcus into her system.”
Keeley developed brain damage and was transferred from the RUH to the Bristol Children’s Hospital, where she then developed diabetes and problems with her kidneys as a result of her condition.
Her parents were told she didn’t have long to live and she was moved to Charlton Farm, a children’s hospice near Bristol.
Mr Mason, 25, said the couple were able to bring their beloved daughter from the hospice to their home in Liddington Way on two occasions.
During the second visit on August 13 Keeley stopped breathing while in the arms of Mark Skinner, Miss Skinner’s father.
Miss Skinner said: “All day she had stopped breathing, but would suddenly start again.
“She stopped breathing for the last time and we thought she would start again. But she didn’t.”
Mr Mason said: “The strangest thing for us is that it (Group B Group B streptococcus)can be treated by antibiotics if it is picked up.”
The couple’s family, including Miss Skinner’s sisters, Laura, 20 and Katie, 13, and brother Nathan, 14, said goodbye to Keeley at a funeral service at West Wiltshire Crematorium in Semington, when they wrote messages attached to pink helium balloons and let them go.
To help raise money in memory of Keeley, Miss Skinner’s grandmother Jill Reynolds, of Seymour Road, Trowbridge, will make a parachute jump at Wroughton, near Swindon, on her 70th birthday.
The jump on October 31 will help boost Meningitis UK funds for research into strains and causes of the illness.
She said: “I am not scared, I’m excited and I have already raised about £400 in sponsorship.
“Keeley was my first great-grandchild and I was thrilled when Nadia told me she was pregnant.
“I think doing this might help other people and children in similar situations.”
Anyone who wants to sponsor Mrs Reynolds can contact the Wiltshire Times on 01225 773646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The family of baby Keeley have spoken of their loss to highlight the danger of the Group B streptococcus infection, as well as to appeal for more information to be available via the NHS.
Mum Nadia said she and her partner want to see routine tests given to all expectant mothers, as well as more education about the dangers of GBS, which is the most common cause of life-threatening infection to newborn babies.
“I think there should be tests given, but I also think it should at least be mentioned during antenatal classes and appointments so people have the choice to ask for the test,” she said.
GBS, a bacterial infection carried by both men and women in their intestines, infects about 700 babies in the UK every year, of which 75 die and 40 suffer long-term health problems.
An NHS Wiltshire spokesman confirmed there is no national screening programme for Group B Streptococcus and that tests had to be sought privately by individuals.
If a baby is infected at birth, it can develop breathing problems, blood infections and in more serious cases, such as Keeley’s, meningitis and blood poisoning.
GBS can be dormant and so tests could appear clear at the start of a pregnancy but be positive at the end.
Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Step Support, said the charity fully supported the couple in their campaign for more public information and tests to be freely available to all pregnant women.
She said: “Most of these infections could be avoided, but sadly it seems unlikely that reliable testing will be available on the NHS in the near future.
“Every pregnant woman should be given information about GBS, yet most people have never heard of it.
“This ignorance is causing babies and their families to suffer needlessly.”
Anyone wanting more information can visit www.gbss.org.uk or call 01444 416176.