Simon and Melissa Van Someren lost their son, Jett, to meningococcal.
Simon and Melissa Van Someren lost their son, Jett, to meningococcal. Chrissy Harris

Young life cut short by disease

JETT Anthony Van Someren passed away in the early hours of last Sunday morning, succumbing to the ravages of meningococcal, the rare but deadly disease.

He was 10 and a half months old.

Parents Melissa and Simon Van Someren relived the nightmare this week, and described a child whose impact on those around him far outweighed his size.

“He was just an absolute pure boy, innocent and full of love, he loved everybody and everybody loved him,” Melissa said.

“He reached out to a lot of people. He had a special gift, and brought so much joy to so many in a short life.”

Simon said he was a perfect child, and easy to raise.

“He didn't have tantrums, he got on with everyone, he was active and rough and tough.”

The traumatic experience began on Friday, July 2, when Melissa noticed he was slightly restless after dropping Oliver, her four-year-old son, off at kindergarten. What was to unfold over the next 24 hours was unimaginable.

They took Jett, who'd been fit and healthy, to the Gladstone Hospital.

“He had a temperature and was starting to shake a bit, but within 10 minutes of being at hospital, he came good,” Simon said.

The consulting doctor told the couple Jett was starting to get sick, but there was no way of determining what the illness would be until it manifested.

Melissa said her gut instinct told her something was amiss, even though the doctor told her Jett was very sick.

“I kept saying to him something's not right. I've got a child nearly five and he was sick a lot, and I've never seen this. Jett was shaking with a blue mouth and he did not have a flu.”

No blood test was carried out, as the doctor felt this was unnecessary, and he assured Melissa and Simon the boy did not have meningococcal.

“I believe the doctor believed that at the time,” Melissa said.

The couple returned home and Jett soon returned to a semblance of his normal self, while the mild temperature lingered.

Jett settled well on Friday night and Melissa was a little more at ease with the situation.

“At that stage, I felt better, but I knew deep, deep down I knew something was going to happen. I had that foreboding feeling, and when I heard him in the night I would be straight up.”

At 2am he awoke.

“He was really thirsty, so I made him a bottle and he vomited it up straight away. Every time he vomited he seemed as though it felt better to have it out,” Melissa said.

Jett didn't have a fever, was crawling around and wouldn't sleep.

Melissa suspected Jett may have had a rotavirus, as Oliver had contracted it when he was younger.

“I felt if we'd taken him to hospital we wouldn't have been taken very seriously at that stage. Everything the doctor said was happening was happening,” she said.

The situation worsened at 7am when a rash appeared on Jett's foot.

“It wasn't red, it was purple, it wasn't like nappy rash,” Simon said.

This change in their young child's condition made them race to the family doctor, and by that time, Jett's head had become wobbly.

The doctor took a “10 second look”, Simon said, and sent them straight to hospital.

Within minutes, a flight from Brisbane was ordered to pick Jett up. Within 10 minutes, Jett had fallen into a coma.

The dark purple rash was spreading, and the boy was going into septic shock, his system shutting down as a result of the bacteria.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service flew to Brisbane to pick up the retrieval crew, and when they arrived the head doctor assessed the situation.

His words to Melissa and Simon were frank: “I don't know if he's going to make it, I'll be honest”.

Doctors told the Van Somerens it would take three hours before Jett was fit to fly, but this became seven.

And things had not gone smoothly at the hospital.

“They needed arterial blood to work out what his system was lacking to keep going, but they struggled to have the right equipment,” Simon said.

They watched as staff raced from one end of the hospital.

“He (the doctor) was yelling at the nurse to get the right equipment,” Simon said.

“You can imagine what we're thinking, standing there holding Jett's arm. Watching that was the most heartbreaking thing.”

The couple praised all the Gladstone Hospital emergency staff who helped try to save the boy.

“We were told Gladstone had done a perfect job and couldn't have done any more,” Melissa said.

Twelve hours after being admitted to hospital, Jett was flown to Brisbane, his departure put back twice as his heart rate dropped under 60.

Simon had left for Brisbane at 5.30pm, as they thought Jett was about to be flown out, but this didn't occur until 8.30pm.

“They (the medical team) were amazed Jett made it to the plane,” Simon said.

During the flight Jett had no further episodes and made it to hospital.

“When I got in there, a lady said to me no news is good news, and I was happy with that,” Melissa said.

Simon arrived and the couple waited for 45 minutes when a knock came at the door.

“By the time we got into the room, they were manipulating his heart, and within 40 seconds he flatlined,” Simon said.

Doctors were working feverishly on Jett, and one approached the couple to tell them the bad news.

“It was so surreal, I almost can't remember it. You're waiting for the nightmare to end, to wake up and think it never really happened,” Melissa said.

Looking back, the Van Somerens believe Gladstone Hospital simply wasn't prepared for what happened to their beloved son.

“It does concern me, the lack of facilities. You can't think it won't happen again and some children will need immediate attention and they don't have the time to fly to Brisbane or Rocky.

“It wouldn't have helped Jett, but we need to raise the awareness. I always thought it was something that would happen to other people. But no, it can happen to you.

“I want parents to know it doesn't matter what anyone says to you, you have to trust your gut instinct.”

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