'If he’d had the vaccine, he could have survived'
As told to Sarah Firth
HOLDING my baby Jordan in my arms, I felt so much love.
You're my boy, I thought, looking at his curious face. I knew I'd do anything for him. Weighing almost 4.5 kilos when he was born, he was a bouncing bub and a second child for my partner Emma, 32, and me.
When we brought him home, his big sister Alexis, now two, doted on him. She loved to give him his bottle and even helped change his nappies.
A good-natured bub, he was soon sleeping soundly through the night. As he grew, Jordan always had a smile on his face and loved to give cuddles. But no-one made him giggle in delight as much as Alexis did. They're already best buds, I thought, watching them. I couldn't have been prouder of my two kids.
Then, one Sunday morning eight weeks ago, our world was turned on its head.
Jordan, six months, lay with me in bed while Emma got Alexis ready for the day. When it was time for his feed, Emma came in with his bottle. 'He seems a bit off,' she said, as he refused to take it.
In the space of two hours
He didn't seem sick, just a bit subdued. Not long after, Emma went to change his nappy and spotted a small purplish rash in his groin. 'What's that?' she said, alarmed.
We'd never seen anything like that on either of our children before. Wanting to get him checked out right away, Emma scooped up Jordan and rushed him to the doctor while I stayed at home with Alexis. Waving the pair of them off, I had no idea how seriously ill our son was. Maybe he's got a bug, I reasoned.
So I was stunned when Emma called to say she'd been sent to the hospital. The GP suspected he had meningococcal.
Once Emma got to the hospital, things became frantic. 'They need to fly Jordan to a hospital in Adelaide,' she told me.
'Are you kidding me?' I asked.
How could this be happening? Less than two hours earlier he'd been snuggled up in bed. Now, Jordan's condition was deteriorating and his rash was spreading.
A parent's worst nightmare
Racing to the hospital, I needed to see him before his flight. But when I arrived, I faced the worst scene any parent could ever imagine. Ushered into a resuscitation room, I felt like I was in a living nightmare.
Jordan was battling meningococcal B and his heart had stopped. A team of doctors were desperately fighting to bring him back. Emma and I looked on in agony. After 25 minutes, there was nothing more they could do. We had to say goodbye to our beautiful blue-eyed boy. In just two hours, he'd been taken by the most terrible disease. It was completely shattering, but there was yet one more cruel twist to come.
Horrified, we discovered that a vaccine could have protected Jordan. We'd made sure he had all the injections on the immunisation schedule, but a course which protects against meningococcal B was only available privately. This course is given at two, four, six and 12 months.
If he'd had the vaccine, he could have survived, I realised. It was like a punch to the guts. The thought was almost too much to bear. Telling Alexis her brother was in heaven was surreal. 'I want to cuddle him,' she said, too young to understand.
A tower of strength
In the days after we lost Jordan, our family, friends and local community became a tower of strength. Pulling up outside the cemetery chapel on the day of Jordan's funeral, there were dozens of parked cars. 'Have you got two services on?' I asked the director.
'No,' he replied. 'They're all here for Jordan.'
I was blown away.
Carrying my son's tiny coffin into the chapel was the toughest moment of my life. No parent should ever have to do this, I thought. I've tried hard to keep things together because if I let my grief out it would be overwhelming.
Campaigning for change
So I've poured my energy into campaigning for change instead. Emma and I are sharing Jordan's story so no-one else suffers like we have. Some news reports said we weren't able to afford the vaccine, but in fact, we never even knew it existed.
My sister Allison, 43, set up a Facebook page, Justice for Jordan - Meningococcal Awareness, and started raising money for a meningococcal charity. Her inbox was flooded with messages from parents who had also been in the dark about this disease.
I felt so angry. 'It shouldn't take us losing our son for things to change,' I said to Emma, heartbroken.
No amount of love or tears can bring back our gorgeous baby boy. But I've made it my mission to tell the world about him, and make sure his death saves lives.
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This story was originally published in That's Life magazine and has been republished here with permission.