A TAUNTON mum told to say her goodbyes to her seriously ill newborn baby has been appointed a volunteer ambassador for a national charity.
Justine Clayton’s son Harrison fought through to beat a life-threatening infection and is now a healthy seven-year-old primary school pupil.
Justine, of Taunton, has done so much to publicise the dangers of the surprisingly common Group B Strep in newborn babies that she has now been taken on by the charity Group B Strep Support.
The illness, which can cause septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis, is carried naturally by up to 30% of pregnant women and, if passed on around birth, can have potentially devastating consequences for the baby.
On average, one newborn baby a day in the UK develops GBS infection, with one baby a week dying and one surviving baby a fortnight suffering long-term mental or physical disabilities.
Harrison needed special care within four hours of being born at Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital and Justine was warned he was unlikely to survive due to a GBS infection.
When he took a serious turn for the worse, his parents were told to say their goodbyes in case he didn’t make it.
Harrison rallied against the infection, spending a month in Musgrove’s Special Care Baby Unit before being allowed home, only to develop a second GBS infection at nine weeks, forcing him to return to hospital for more treatment.
Justine said: “If we hadn’t had the information from Group B Strep Support, and known that Harrison could develop GBS again, we wouldn’t have been able to tell the hospital about GBS; how things could have been so different.
“As a result, we’ve continued to do as much as we can for the charity, fund and awareness-raising whenever we can.
“I’m extremely honoured to become a volunteer ambassador for a charity that’s so close to my heart. I don’t want to see what happened to our family happen to someone else.
“I want to create much greater awareness of this devastating infection among parents-to-be.”
Justine is backing the charity’s calls for a test for GBS to be made available on the NHS for pregnant women.
She said: “Had I been tested for GBS and found positive, I could have been offered antibiotics in labour and Harrison’s illness would have been prevented.”
Charity Group B Strep Support’s chief executive Jane Plumb said: “We warmly welcome Justine as our newest volunteer ambassador.
“She’s already done so much to help raise awareness and support the charity in its work to prevent devastating infection in newborn babies.”