WHEN Hayley and Michael Pateman put their baby son to bed on a Tuesday night in December 2005 they had no idea it would be for the last time.
At just 19 weeks old, Alexander Pateman was a happy healthy tot, a joy to his parents, grandparents and the rest of their family and friends.
But by 5pm the following day Alexander was dead – struck down at terrifying speed by meningitis.
In spite of the very best efforts of his parents, staff at the Galletly medical practice in Bourne and doctors at Peterborough District Hospital, he could not be saved.
The couple had photographs taken of Alexander for a bonny baby competition a week before he died and a day before his death Michael’s father had taken him out to watch Bourne Lions’ Santa’s sleigh as it came along their street heralding a happy Christmas.
Hayley said: “We put him to bed at 7pm and he always slept through. But he woke up at 5am and he wasn’t right, he was a bit grizzly.
“His hands were cold, we gave him a bottle but he wasn’t interested, we were worried so we rang for an ambulance straight away.”
They accompanied him to hospital and on arrival he had improved, took a feed and was allowed home at 9am. He seemed fine and slept until about 2pm. Then, when Hayley changed his nappy, she noticed one single red spot on his tummy. She rang their local surgery and within minutes they had taken him there, by which time the rash was spreading dramatically. He was given penicillin before being taken to hospital by ambulance again.
“By the time we got there he was floppy,” said Hayley. “The rash had spread to his head and was so red it looked as if a bottle of red wine had been poured over him.
“We learned afterwards a widespread rash is the septicaemia taking over so he was already in the final stages. They gave him antibiotics and stabilised him, took him to intensive care and he never came out – he died at 5pm.
“The day before he had been a perfectly happy baby,” said Michael. “The rash appeared at 2pm and by 5pm he was dead.”
Not only did the distraught parents have to face the loss of their beloved son, they also knew they could have no more children. When Alexander was born Hayley suffered heart failure and spent 10 days in a coronary care unit. They were told it was too risky for her to have another child.
The entire family was devastated – Alexander was a first and only grandchild for both sets of grandparents.
Since his death his parents, who live in Harrington Street, Bourne, have become staunch fundraisers for the Meningitis Trust, which supported them in their time of tragedy. They have already raised £12,000, mostly through car boot sales.
Michael, 39, a caretaker at Bourne Abbey Primary Academy, said: “When Alexander died we got in touch with the trust because we were at a loss to understand what had happened. It sent a counsellor and helped us arrange and pay for the funeral.
The couple collected £1,000 in donations at Alexander’s funeral and someone donated another £1,000 anonymously. Michael has since done a Great North Run and various local individuals and organisations have raised money.
Hayley, 43, who works as a groundskeeper for Bourne United Charities said: “We decided to raise money to help other people in our situation
“There are three things the trust helps with – counselling, funeral support and prosthetic limbs for people who recover from meningitis. People can also be left blind or deaf.”
The trust has a fundraising tribute page for Alexander, which has been running for four years.
Michael said: “It was fantastic from the start. It kept in touch with us and sends a birthday card for Alexander every year. We have also attended its garden of remembrance at Stroud where there is an oak plaque for him.”
Their son, who died of meningococcal septicaemia, is buried in Bourne cemetery where he has a memorial bench, provided by his godmother, Carole Crofts. “My parents go there fortnightly and we go now and again,” said Hayley. “But we think about him every day. It does get easier but you are always aware of it.”
Hayley’s brother, Andrew Purdie, climbed to Mount Everest base camp to raise money and left Alexander’s photo with a Tibetan prayer flag there while Richard Lomas-Brown dedicated his London Marathon 2006 medal to Alexander.
The couple donated their baby equipment to Peterborough’s special care baby unit where Alexander spent time after his birth because his mother was so ill.
Michael and Hayley stress how alert people need to be.
“We knew that morning that something was badly wrong,” said Michael. “But it was so sudden.
“We think we did everything right but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. Your baby can’t tell you what’s wrong.”
It’s clear the couple could not have done more for Alexander but they hope their story might help save someone else’s precious child – or indeed anyone of any age.
What happened to them has changed their lives but they have received wonderful support from family, friends, the community and the Meningitis Trust.
Both are keen darts players and motorcyclists, they are both organ donors, they have two cats and they will continue fundraising – their next event is a charity darts night in September.