Our Story

Listen to Tavie's story here, or keep reading below

Our 16 month old daughter Octavia ‘Tavie’ woke up with a temperature on Thursday 21st March, 2024 so we kept her off nursery (as we had several times in the past). Her temperature was very responsive to paracetamol and ibuprofen, and she had a happy day at home watching Ms Rachel and playing with her drum kit.

Overnight, she cried intermittently but then settled asleep in her cot. By the next morning, she was breathing faster than normal and still had a temperature so we took her to our local A&E at Barnet Hospital. On arrival, Tavie was awake and sitting on my lap; within a short time she became listless and a rash appeared - tiny pin pricks which didn’t disappear when we pressed on them (called petechiae). She was rapidly given antibiotics and fluids. The doctor told us that Tavie had a severe pneumonia and sepsis; a rapid throat swab had identified Group A strep as the cause. The anaesthetic team prepared to intubate and arranged to transfer her to an intensive care unit. We left the room for the intubation, but were told that it had gone well. However, a short while later Tavie's condition deteriorated and her blood pressure dropped dangerously low.

The Children's Acute Transport Service (CATS) is a specialised service designed to make intensive care rapidly available to critically ill children in the North Thames and East Anglia regions. The team is made up of very experienced intensive care doctors and nurses. They are dispatched from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London (GOSH) to local hospitals to stabilise and retrieve the children and bring them to the intensive care units in the region. CATS arrived at Barnet Hospital, and they tried immediately to gain central access to her blood vessels to give lifesaving medicines. This is a sterile procedure (like an operating room) and we could not be present, so we waited in the relatives’ room in A&E for news. Tavie was so sick, that it was not possible to insert the lines.  The Paediatric Consultant told us that he was ‘fearful for her life’ and without this access, she would not survive. The wait was excrutiating; multiple highly specialised doctors worked tirelessly to save her and eventually a line was inserted into her leg bone so the medications could be administered. By this point, she was so unwell the doctors felt she was too unstable to put in an ambulance as she would not survive the journey. Finally, 30 minutes later, the decision was made that we should try the transfer as otherwise she would die at Barnet Hospital.

Having not seen Tavie for 5 hours, we were led back into the resuscitation room. Our beautiful daughter was on a ventilator, she looked blue and was in a medically induced coma. We kissed her and followed her outside to the ambulance where members of the public were so upset by how unwell she looked that they started to pray for her. The ambulance driver (paramedic) gave us a sick bowl each and strapped us into the back of the ambulance near Tavie’s head, he said he would do everything he could do get us to GOSH in time. We could do nothing but sit and watch the monitors, numbers reflecting Tavie’s vital signs dropped and alarms bleeped over the next 26 minutes.

After a terrifying journey, Tavie arrived at GOSH around 11pm on 22nd March and was taken straight to Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). We were told that her life was in grave danger and that they needed 2 hours to get central access to her blood vessels to save her life. Without this she would die. We spent that time praying in the chapel and sitting in the parents’ room, terrified that we would lose our beautiful girl. Thankfully, after 2 hours, the PICU team managed to gain the access they needed, which allowed them to use medications and machines to do the jobs of her vital organs whilst they were so damaged.  She remained on life-support for 17 days.  

The blood supply to Tavie’s right leg and foot was severely compromised during the first few hours of her resuscitation. She has had a total of 7 operations so far, with several more to come. Signing seven consent forms which include +/- amputation of right lower limb/foot/toes for your 16-month-old daughter has been one of the hardest parts of this entire process. Particularly at the start, when Anaesthetic doctors had to warn us that she could die at any stage during the operation.  Sadly, we had no choice, as dead tissue is an infection risk and could make Tavie even more sick. Ultimately, survival is the main goal, no matter how emotional and devastated we were that she could lose part of her limb.

The first 2 emergency operations on her leg and foot were done 12 hours and 48 hours after we arrived at GOSH (called faciotomies), the plastic surgeons also performed revolutionary surgery on her nerves and blood vessels to try and save as much as possible. When we first discovered the injury to her leg, we were told she would probably need an above knee amputation. However, the emergency surgeries have saved her knee. On 23rd April, 2024 Tavie had an amputation of her right foot and ankle (called a Syme’s amputation). Due to the nature of the injury, she will also need a full thickness skin graft along her right shin. Sadly, it is not looking likely that this will accept a skin graft meaning her amputation may be extended. We don’t know what the end of this story will be yet, but we do know we have some of the best Plastic and Orthopaedic surgeons in the world looking after her. We will keep you all updated.

Please donate here via our JustGiving page