St Neots mum calls for rethink on vaccine for chickenpox

Rebecca Durham from St Neots, appealing for chickenpox vaccination

Rebecca Durham from St Neots, appealing for chickenpox vaccination - Credit: Archant

After losing her daughter at nine-months-old to chickenpox, Rebecca Durham has joined a campaign for all children to be given a vaccination to fight the infectious disease.

Taylah Durham

Taylah Durham - Credit: Archant

Rebecca began raising awareness of her daughter Taylah’s death after reading about a petition by Eaton Socon mum Sarah Allen, whose son Jasper was rushed to hospital after contracting a severe case of the virus.

When Taylah was born Rebecca, of Hardwick Road, Eynesbury, was overjoyed to have given birth to a healthy baby girl but it wasn’t until a few days later that problems started to show.

“It was very hard at the time as they didn’t pick any of it up on the scan so it was completely unexpected and each day they were saying ‘oh we found this now, we found this now’,” said Rebecca.

After spending weeks in hospital it was discovered that Taylah had a rare genetic disorder, so rare that there hasn’t been anyone else diagnosed with it in the world.

Taylah Durham

Taylah Durham - Credit: Archant


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Doctors discovered that Taylah had two big holes in her heart and that her arteries were narrowed.

“She also had extra thumbs, she was deaf, her ears were growing and she had a curved spine and fused ribs. She had no pallet in her mouth so she was tube fed.”

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After months of tests, Rebecca was finally allowed to take Taylah home.

It wasn’t until Taylah was nine and half months though, that the family’s world was turned upside down.

Rebecca’s youngest son Tylah, now 10, came home from a friend’s party and had contracted chickenpox.

“It was without us knowing, because you don’t know until it is too late and then two days later Taylah came out with them [spots].”

Rebecca immediately rang the doctor’s surgery and was told that Taylah would be fine and told to “just give her Calpol”.

“Then I got the community nurse who used to do her tube just to clarify that she would be ok and she said ‘you know all kids get it, she will be fine’ so I took her word for it.”

It wasn’t until two days later that Rebecca had got up and Taylah looked “like she was actually dead”.

“Her spots almost looked like cigarette burns, they weren’t little spots they were big scabs all over her.

“She was so pale, withdrawn and her eyes were withdrawn as well. She was really ill so we ended up rushing her over to the hospital [Hinchingbrooke].”

During the days that Taylah spent at the hospital staff kept a close eye on the nine-month-old but after a few days she had also contracted pneumonia.

It was then that Rebecca found out about medication that could have been given earlier to Taylah to help with the symptoms.

“They didn’t tell me this medication was available, I did actually speak to the doctors afterwards and they said ‘if you live up north it is actually funded but down here it isn’t’,” Rebecca said.

“It is not to cure it, it is for the symptoms to help those who are vulnerable get through it a bit easier.

“They hadn’t given it to her until the day before she died. They gave it to her in the morning and then 20 hours later she died – it was too late.”

At 1.30am, on May 14 2008, Taylah died in her mother’s arms.

“At the end we found out that the chickenpox had all gone to her heart and lungs.

“On her death certificate it read chickenpox and I honestly believe if they had given her that medication when she first went in there she would have had more of a chance and she would have been here now because she was already fighting through everything she had been through.”

Rebecca is now hoping there will be a rethink on not only where the medication given to those who are more vulnerable to chickenpox is available, but also access to the vaccination.

“I don’t think it matters whether you have got a vulnerable child that’s got a compromised immune system or whether you have a healthy child, they need to be vaccinated. It’s not fair on them or the families to go through it.

“I think if there is something out there it should be given to all the children. Kids who are vulnerable are supposed to get that vaccination as well as their siblings, I didn’t even know that this existed.

“It would have given her more of a fighting chance because Tyler wouldn’t have been able to bring it home in the first place.”

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