'You hit my son like a wrecking ball': dad tells of meningococcal horror

Josh Roberts and Katelyn Galea with son Archie, who has been taken off life support.
Josh Roberts and Katelyn Galea with son Archie, who has been taken off life support.  Photo: Facebook/Josh Roberts

Just five days ago baby Archie Roberts was fighting for his life after being struck down by the rapid moving meningococcal disease.

The five-month-old's parents, Josh Roberts and Katelyn Galea, feared their son might die last Thursday night as they made a 40-minute dash from Greenbank, southwest of Brisbane, to Ipswich Hospital.

What was first diagnosed as a likely ear infection became the couple's worst nightmare when Archie's lips turned grey and he developed rashes on his chest.

The baby was then transferred to Brisbane's Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, where he was placed on life support. 

As their son battled the potentially deadly disease, his parents took to social media to share their son's plight and plead with friends and family to pray for his recovery.

"Meningococcal. You hit my son yesterday like a wrecking ball but he came straight back at you like a d11 bulldozer," Mr Roberts wrote.

"Meningococcal. You have met your match Arch is going to beat you and he is going to come out on the other side with a big smile on his face.

"This is something you only read about in the paper or see in the news. You would never expect it to hit someone so healthy and so happy, a little boy who has so much going for him so much love and a little boy who has had such a big impact on the earth already and has only been here for five months.

"Any parents that had have had sick kids and experienced what Katelyn and I are going through at this time I feel for you. This is one of the hardest times I have ever had to deal with. I have never ever loved something, someone with such passion and love.

Advertisement

"It doesn't matter if you are the toughest person on this planet walking into that hospital room and seeing you like this rips me apart. You are a strong little man Arch just keep on fighting. You will get through this."

Now it appears that the family's prayers have been answered after Archie's condition improved enough for him to be taken off life support on Tuesday. 

Ms Galea shared a touching video of the baby boy as he began to respond to her and open his eyes. 

"My baby is waking up!!!!!!!!! Archie, mummy and daddy couldn't be any more prouder. You are the true definition of a fighter. I love you," she posted with the short clip. 

Mr Roberts and Ms Galea have been told the meningococcal bug is completely out of Archie's system, and it is now the side effects of the disease which are the main concern.

"It's his first Christmas, so it would be great to be home for Christmas," Mr Roberts said.

"It's a six-week recovery. They think it will be a full recovery but he may lose a couple of fingertips."

A childhood friend of Ms Galea, Katie Maconachie, has started a GoFundMe page to assist the couple with their mounting hospital bills.

The fund has exceeded its $5000 target, with more than $8000 raised so far. The family plans to donate any excess funds to a children's charity.

"We don't know how to thank people for all the support we've been given," Mr Roberts said. 

Archie's diagnosis came on the same day another young boy was taken from a north Brisbane childcare centre to Prince Charles Hospital with the bacterial infection.

It also came just over a week after South Australian toddler Charlie Mason died after a short battle with meningococcal.

A preschool aged child, also from Perth, died from the disease in early September.

A vaccine to protect against the C-strain of meningococcal disease is provided free of charge to all one-year-olds in Australia under the National Immunisation Program. A vaccine against the B-strain, which is now more common, is available on prescription, but comes at a cost and has been the subject of a global shortage.

Data from states that track the number of cases of meningococcal shows there has been a rise in numbers in 2016 compared with previous years.

In Victoria there have been 57 cases so far this year, up from 50 cases in 2015 and 26 cases in 2014. In NSW, there have been 63 cases already in 2016, up from 43 in 2015 and 35 in 2014.

Western Australia has had 17 cases so far this year, compared with the same number for all of 2015.

NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said the disease was most prevalent at this time of year and that infants, young children, teenagers and young adults were most at risk.

"Meningococcal disease can be very severe, and people infected with it can become extremely unwell within hours of the first symptoms appearing, so it's important to be aware of the symptoms," she said.