After excitedly touching down in sunny Phuket, Thailand, in October last year, young mum Elisha Robinson said she never imagined her dream family holiday would turn into a living nightmare.
The 24-year-old from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, was over the moon to be taking her then seven-month-old baby girl Lilliana on her very first overseas trip.
The stay-at-home mum and her plasterer partner Jai, 25, were ready to spend the next month relaxing in beautiful Thailand with some of their close family and friends that were joining them on the holiday.
But halfway through their dream vacation, Elisha said she became a little concerned when Lilliana came down with a slight fever – so she took her to a local hospital to get checked out.
After being discharged with paracetamol, the mum hoped her baby’s fever would settle – but Elisha’s world came crashing down when Lilliana suddenly lost consciousness and turned blue just four hours later.
The horrified parents rushed their dying baby girl back the hospital, where Lilliana was devastatingly diagnosed with meningococcal sepsis –a sudden onset bacterial infection of the bloodstream and blood vessels that can be fatal.
With her own blood now poisonous, the infant was fighting for her life – while her tiny legs became ravaged by an ominous purple rash that viciously broke out into open wounds as her skin turned gangrenous.
Once stable, little Lilliana was airlifted from Phuket to the capital Bangkok, where heroic surgeons painstakingly removed the dead and dying tissue in her little legs in the hope that it would save her from amputation.
Elisha said: “We had been so excited for this holiday because going away together as a family is something we do once a year.
“It was a family tradition which Lilliana was now going to be a part of. It was her first time on a plane, and the first time she had left the state.
“We were staying in a little beach town just out of Patong, in a villa all to ourselves.
“It was something we’d planned and saved towards for months. Lilliana was surrounded by love, and we were so happy.
“We ate out a lot, and visited an animal sanctuary and some cultural sites, and all together as a family. It was everything you’d want from a holiday.
“But halfway through, Lilliana had woken up with a fever. I was concerned as she had never really been sick before, not even with a cold
“We went to the hospital where they gave us paracetamol. I hoped this would help, but just four hours later I was laying on the couch with her and she was burning up.
“Her lips and fingernails started going blue, and she just went limp and lost consciousness. We rushed her back to the hospital and that was the beginning of our nightmare.
“The doctors told us she had meningococcal and that she was going to die.
“I couldn’t believe it. She was well and happy in the morning and dying by lunchtime.”
After a gruelling two weeks in intensive care, Lilliana and her family were flown back home to Australia in November 2018 in order to begin the long road to recovery
Thankfully, the distraught parents had all their medical bills and travel expenses covered by Zoomtravelinsurance.com.au, who paid over $113,000AUD in claims for the family.
And now almost half a year later, Lilliana continues to receive treatment, including further skin graft surgeries, steroid injections and extensive physiotherapy to restore function to her legs.
The brave toddler amazingly just celebrated her first birthday this month – a milestone her mum Elisha said she feared she might never get to see.
Elisa said: “I was so thankful that we took out insurance with Zoom before we left home. It played a major role in saving our baby’s life.
“I don’t know what we would have done without it. My baby was dying and Zoom made us feel less alone.
“To parents who think about travelling uninsured: don’t. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Director of Zoomtravelinsurance.com.au Natalie Ball explains that travel insurance services goes well beyond than paying hefty medical bills.
“It is in traumatic times like this that travellers quickly learn that the support services that come with travel insurance go well beyond just paying hefty medical bills. Our 24/7 Emergency Assistance team were with Lilliana and her family every step of the way and we are so glad that we could help in bringing her home.”
“Zoomtravelinsurance.com.au provided around-the-clock support, getting progress reports from the Thai doctors and explaining them to Lilliana’s parents and grandmother, arranging an Australian critical care nurse to be on the ground, organising air ambulances and flight permits, and arranging flights to return home.”
Ball says, “Many budget or medical-only travel insurance policies simply do not offer the same support in a crisis, so find out what you’re paying for before you buy. It is so important to check your insurers’ Product Disclosure Statement before you buy to know exactly what you and your family will and won’t be covered for in an emergency.”
“Jai and Elisha could never have imagined that their family holiday would become a family nightmare so quickly. But disaster can strike at any time, and by having travel insurance, they were able to focus less on finances and logistics, and more on supporting their daughter through her recovery.”
“There is no doubt that Lilliana has got a long road ahead of her. But I’m just so proud of her.
“At the end of the day, she is lucky to still have her leg and her life. We’re so thankful that she is still here with us.
“Celebrating her first birthday felt like a dream. It wasn’t long ago that this was a birthday we never thought we’d see.”
“Now we want to help other parents learn about meningococcal, and what they can do if it touches their lives.
“I hope Lilliana’s story can help anyone else ever having to go through this.”
Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that causes blood poisoning or inflammation of the lining of the brain – with infection generally requiring close and prolonged contact with a person carrying the bacteria.
There are vaccinations available for the five main strains of meningococcal disease that are delivered in two separate vaccinations
The meningococcal B-strain vaccine can be given from six weeks of age – while immunisations for the other four strains can be given at two months of age.
Director of Meningococcal Australia, Eliza Ault-Connell, is a Paralympic athlete and meningococcal survivor who warns that the rapid progression can be a killer.
She said: “The period between onset of first symptoms to being critically ill can be a matter of hours. You can seem healthy at breakfast and be dead by dinner.
“The symptoms may include sudden onset of fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain, a rash of red-purple spots or bruises, dislike of bright lights, nausea and vomiting.
“Not all symptoms may be present at once, and young children may have fewer specific symptoms, including irritability, high-pitched crying and refusal to eat.”
For more information about the travel insurance used by Lilliana’s family, visit https://www.zoomtravelinsurance.com.au/travel-insurance/meningococcal-disease