Casper was born on the 9th April 2010 - two weeks late, but after a textbook pregnancy
(from morning sickness to heartburn) where there were no indications that there would
be any problems. He was born after 20 hours of labour, with the help of an epidural
and some forceps. He cried within seconds of being born, and passed all his preliminary
tests, including hearing, sight, moro reflex and was discharged from the hospital
after two days.
We were out and about, enjoying the sunshine and picnics from day one. He was happily
breastfeeding from day two, crying when his nappy was changed but enjoying his daily
baths. He was on a normal feeding, eating schedule, and tended to sleep a good four
hours after his nighttime bath. We considered ourselves both lucky, and blessed with
excellent parenting skills! We had our own way of comforting him when he cried -
Ollie would walk up and down the stairs holding him, Beth would gently jiggle him
in an upright position - both methods tended to work, though Ollie’s jiggling and
Beth’s stairwalking were ineffective. Casper knew what he wanted.
Casper was born into a loving extended family, with regular visits to grandparents,
aunties, uncles and cousins, who all loved to cuddle and hold him. He was happy being
held, but always remembered dinner time. He also had some excellent NCT buddies,
two of whom had beaten him to his birth date, two who arrived within a couple of
weeks. With them he shared a BBQ, picnics and swimming lessons - all of which he
performed as a normal baby should.
By week 5, however, it seemed that he was not keeping up with his buddies. We had
been told that all babies develop in their own time so we tried not to be overly
concerned. We were looking forward to him smiling, growing and supporting his neck
as the others seemed to be doing. By week 6, we were concerned about his muscle
tone, and his increasing tiredness, so we asked the doctor if we could see a paediatrician
for their expert opinion. After explaining in depth his symptoms, and a thorough
check-over, he could not see anything visibly wrong with him. We were told that he
could have a virus, but to monitor over the next couple of weeks. By week 8, things
had not improved, and he had not been gaining much weight so we took him back to
the hospital, where this time a senior consultant confirmed our concerns - there
was definitely something seriously wrong - and recommended he be admitted.
Over the following few days they carried out numerous tests, including MRI and EEG
scans, blood and lumbar fluid analysis, x-rays and physical examinations - but all
tests came back normal, with the only ‘tell’ being a raised lactate level in his
blood. This led the doctors to investigate the possibility of a metabolic disorder.
Casper’s condition continued to decline. A week later, he suffered a crisis where
his temperature dropped quickly, he became clammy and completely unresponsive and
floppy. We rushed him to hospital, where his condition was stabilized before he was
taken to Southampton Paediatric Intensive Care. He stayed there for 3 days, before
being moved to the High Dependency Unit, where he stayed a further five days. During
his stay in hospital, the doctors recommended rushing through a skin and muscle biopsy,
which we hoped would lead to a diagnosis - at this point, we only had suspicions
of the condition.
He was able to return to Winchester hospital, but by now he was no longer able to
feed from a bottle. He had a nasal gastric tube fitted, and was fed every three hours
During the week that followed, he gained a little bit of weight, but nothing like
the amount that he should have, and we clung to any positive signs we could notice
- he moved his hips slightly, but still could not lift his head. We took him home
during the daytime, but he became increasingly sleepy, and wriggled less. On Thursday
8th July, while in the hospital, he had another crisis - again his temperature dropped,
he required oxygen on a ventilator, and to be warmed, and again we went to Southampton
Paediatric Intensive Care. This time, he did not recover as quickly - while we had
hoped that he may be able to return to Winchester, as he was not able to breathe
off the ventilator for several days, we were told that he may not be able to breathe
unassisted again. The kind nurses moved us to a private room within the ward, where
we could spend every precious moment together as a family.
On Tuesday 13th July we finally received a diagnosis on Casper’s condition. He was
suffering from Complex 1 Deficiency - a form of Leigh Syndrome (see Metabolic Disorder
link for medical definition). While this made no difference to his prognosis, it
at least explained to us what had happened, and gave us some idea as to what our
future may hold.
On Wednesday 14th July, we transferred to Naomi House, a beautiful children’s hospice
just outside of Winchester, where he was taken off the ventilator at 8:30pm. As his
breathing immediately became shallow, we were told that he would probably pass away
in minutes. However, the little fighter held on, breathing in regular gasps, with
the occasional apnoea, until 2.45am on Saturday 17th July, when finally passed.
He was looked after with love and care until his very last moment. Nothing more could
have been done for him. Naomi house looked after us for the following days, until
we were ready to return to face the world again. They also helped with the paperwork,
the funeral and the service. Without them, this hellish experience would have been
even worse. They are a wonderful charity, staffed by some incredible people, who
we will continue to raise money for.
God bless you Casper.
Casper’s Service was held on Tuesday 27th July. If you were unable to make it and
would like to see the order of service, please click here.