Meningococcal survivor Zaac Dow is a tough battler

Mike Richards

LITTLE Zaac Dow is one hell of a fighter.

Meningococcal disease did its best to take the five-year-old's life three years ago.

Zaac's battle to live came at a terrible cost - surgeons had to amputate his right leg below the knee.

Mum Simone Johnson, who is raising seven children with husband George, said she would never forget Easter, 2012 when a strange ailment struck down her precious little boy.

"He wasn't himself, he was very lethargic, tired, withdrawn - he wasn't himself at all," the 37-year-old courier driver recalled.

"I knew something wasn't right so I lay down with him.

"During the night he tossed and turned constantly.

"About 6.30am the next morning we noticed a small mark above his nappy line - it was a dark purplish colour.

"Within minutes we noticed small dots coming up on his face we immediately knew something was wrong."

Hospital doctors pumped Zaac's writhing body with antibiotics as his family struggled to comprehend the pain he was going through.

"All I knew was my son was squirming with pain and I couldn't do anything to help him," Ms Johnson said.

"Seeing my child in so much pain and not being able to help him was so excruciating."

Not long after they arrived at the hospital the unthinkable happened - Zaac's heart stopped.

"When he flat-lined my sister Nicole tried to hold me up and we both fell to the floor," Ms Johnson said. "All I could think was 'I've lost my son'.

"I started to say to God 'Please don't take my boy'."

The little boy and his mother were flown to Brisbane and a few hours later a team of medical experts worked through the night to keep him alive.

"I watched my son hooked up to so many machines pumping so many antibiotics into his body, watched his

body swell to the size of a balloon.

"Watching his leg die was excruciating."

Three years later and Zaac is on the verge of getting a prosthetic limb.

He travels to Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital twice yearly so plastic surgeons can release the tensions on his scars to ensure his body can grow properly.

"Zaac will always have obstacles to overcome in life," Ms Johnson said.

"We are currently trying to get a prosthetic leg with a knee joint in it, which will require rehabilitation to teach him how to use it."

Without the Children's Hospital Foundation Queensland, the impact of Zaac's ongoing hospitalisation would have been much worse for the family.

"The foundation has always been there," Ms Johnson said. "They were there from the start dealing with the smallest of things to the largest things so we didn't have to worry about it."

As Christmas approaches, Ms Johnson is looking forward to spending time with her family but she said she would love nothing more than to take her brood on a holiday.

"My ultimate Christmas wish to one day take the kids to Brisbane and stay at one of the resorts and take them to a theme park for a couple of days," she said.

"I would love to be able to afford to take time off and spend it with the kids making adventures for them every day.

"Time passes so quickly and you need to cherish every bit of time you have with them."


Topics:  gladstone health meningococcal disease survivors

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