SURVIVOR: Thorn Pochyly now studies animal care with a view to a career in that field.
SURVIVOR: Thorn Pochyly now studies animal care with a view to a career in that field.

Mum shares her story to save other children

WHEN Kylie Pochyly's seven-month old son was unsettled and whinging in the middle of the night little did she know just 12 hours later he would be in organ failure and fighting for life.

"He never cried as a baby, he was always happy," Kylie said.

"Around 4am I just couldn't get him settled, he was grumpy and that was totally out of character.

"I took Thorn to my local GP at 10am, even though he still wasn't showing any symptoms; as a mother I just felt something wasn't right."

Kylie's GP agreed and sent her to a specialist that same morning.

"The specialist took bloods and said he'd be in touch."

At 3pm Kylie got the phone call no parent wants to receive.


FIGHTER: The devastating affect of meningococcal disease on Thorn's 7-month old body

"The specialist told me there was something in Thorn's blood and that I had to take him to the hospital immediately."

In the short time it took Kylie to drive from her home in Boambee to the old Coffs Base Hospital in Victoria St, Thorn's condition had rapidly decreased and the cause was obvious - meningococcal disease.

"When I got to the hospital the rash just went boom - it was crawling under the skin, we were actually watching it join up."

By 8pm Thorn was going into organ failure and the medical team was working to stabilise him so he could be airlifted to Westmead Hospital where he spent the next 17 days fighting.

This nightmare happened in 2001.

Thorn has just celebrated his 18th birthday.

It has been a long road to recovery.

Thorn spent six months of every year in hospital until his ninth birthday when he had a kidney transplant.

As a result of the disease he has severe body scarring and lost his foot and part of his thumb, he has endured countless medical procedures, hospitals visits and therapies.


BEST MATES: Thorn and 55-year-old Cocky share a special bond

Kylie is sharing their story in an effort to raise awareness about meningococcal disease and vaccines for the different strains.

"Back in 2001 nobody had really heard of it, and there were no vaccines, it just wasn't on the radar."

"I think it's possible Thorn got infected when we went to Bellingen markets, maybe from someone coughing or sneezing. You just never know, so that's why I'm telling people to be informed, talk to your GP and get whatever is available.

"If your kid is sick, don't mess around take them to the doctor. As a parent you know, you have a gut feeling when your child is sick, even if they don't show a lot of symptoms. Thorn had a raised temperature and was grumpy, it wasn't until later on that day he developed a sensitivity to light and was finally diagnosed with meningococcal B.

"There is so much information about meningococcal disease and the vaccines, read up about it, be informed."

Meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection of the blood and/or membranes that line the spinal cord and brain, is rare but potentially life-threatening. It can lead to death within 24 hours. Most people survive meningococcal disease but up to one in 10 of those infected may die, while one in five infected may suffer serious long-term disabilities including brain damage, deafness, scarring or loss of limbs.

As a medical advisor for Meningococcal Australia, Professor Robert Booy, Senior Professorial Fellow, University of Sydney, said vaccination is the best way parents can help protect their families against this rare but potentially devastating disease.

"There are meningococcal disease vaccines available to help protect against meningococcal disease on the National Immunisation Program, on state immunisation programs and via private prescription," said Professor Booy.

"As there are differences between programs state-to-state, it's important parents don't assume their children, including older teenagers, are protected against all strains of the disease.

"Parents should discuss meningococcal disease with their local GP and visit for guidance."

Signs of meningococcal disease:

  • Meningococcal disease can start with symptoms similar to a cold or flu (fever, runny nose, sore throat, feeling tired).This can make it hard to diagnose early.
  • Early signs and symptoms are often non-specific and flu-like. Classic clinical features of meningococcal disease often appear late or not at all.
  • Common symptoms may include sudden high fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, or a reddish or purple skin rash.