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Thomas age 5

The news that I was pregnant again , for the seventh time, was greeted with mixed feelings. My youngest child was 2 and I had finally resigned myself to the fact that there was life after babies and following 12 years of being either pregnant or changing nappies I discovered there were other things I could do.

I began playing netball, started competition swimming, learned to water ski and joined the local athletics club with my children (who said you're over the hill at thirty!). Six months later I was pregnant, I swore off getting fit again forever. Once I had recovered from the original shock, I was as happy as I had been with my other six babies. I began to make clothes and do all the other things pregnant women do (for me mostly put on weight). I was extremely happy throughout most of my pregnancy, although I did worry occasionally that perhaps a seventh baby was tempting fate.

Finally the long awaited day arrived (Thomas was almost 3 weeks late). After a very short labour my baby was born. He was perfect, a beautiful little boy.

Thomas was very alert from birth, he was born at home and settled into routine very quickly. He was far more advanced than any of his siblings at similar ages, by four months he had two teeth, was crawling and had the most incredible repertoire of sounds, he was an incredible mimic and was fascinated by noise of any description.

By the age of seven months he was climbing into, under and over everything. He had a vocabulary of over a dozen words, all delivered with great clarity, and was preparing to launch himself into true independence, by taking his first steps unaided.

On the 10th May 1989 I put my seven and half month old baby to bed at the usual time, a few hours later he woke and threw up in his cot, nothing unusual, he was teething, I bathed him, changed his bedding and he settled back to sleep. I checked on him several times during the night, he was fine, no temperature, no more problems, he was sleeping soundly.

The next morning Thomas didn't wake at the usual time. At first I didn't worry, he'd had a disturbed night, I thought he probably just needs a little extra sleep to make up for it. The usual bedlam reigned supreme in the house (trying to get six people ready to leave the house at their appointed times) my eldest boy had been sent to see if Thomas had awakened, he was still asleep. By now though I had a gut feeling something was wrong. I went to check Thomas, he was not asleep.

My baby was a mottled blue colour his breathing was harsh and laboured and he was ice cold, his eyes were staring and his neck was stiff.

We rang our GP and he told us to meet him at the surgery. He told us he thought Thomas had meningitis and we needed to get him to hospital immediately.

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