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Cheshire nursery staff save the life of a little boy amid a severe allergic reaction

When a one-year-old boy started showing signs of a severe allergic reaction, his nursery staff acted quickly and saved his life. Without their quick thinking, mum Kerri-Louise Whitham, 33, fears he may have gone into complete anaphylactic shock.

Baby Dominic Whitham, affectionately known as Doodles, has 15 known allergens including latex, avocado, milk and beef. He also suffers from respiratory problems and neonatal absence syndrome, after developing a morphine addiction due to his mother’s disability.

Staff at Astbury Lane Nursery in Congleton are aware of her health issues and are working with her mother to keep her safe. So when a staff member saw a red spot on his face, they sprang into action.

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On Wednesday, March 23, Dominic started new oral medication for an allergy-related skin condition. Just hours after his first dose, he began to show the first signs of a severe allergic reaction.

Nursery staff at Astbury Lane responded quickly and contacted mum Kerri-Louise, who asked them to give her allergy medicine. They administered the treatment a few minutes after the spot was detected.

Kerri-Louise rushed to the nursery to collect her baby while being in contact with the GP, and upon arrival she could see the reaction spreading. She told CheshireLive: “I saw straight away that his lips had started to swell, his eyes were poofy, his lips were deep red. I passed that on to the GP, said, ‘He had her allergy meds, but the symptoms seem to have spread in the 10/15 minutes it took me to get there.”

“He wasn’t fighting for his breathing at all, he was just having a lot of shallow, rapid breathing. The nursery staff, Gemma, had her hand on her chest, and that’s when I noticed her breathing.

The GP told Kerri-Louise she needed to take baby Dominic to hospital. Staff remained calm and helped Dominic into his mother’s car, who planned to take him to Macclesfield Hospital.

Baby Dominic had an allergic reaction after taking medication

“Dominic was a little smiley but calm. He wasn’t freaked out at all,” Kerri-Louise explained. strapped him into the car seat.

After receiving advice from her husband Carl, she decided to call an ambulance to meet them at home as fears grew that Dominic’s symptoms were getting worse. He was starting to look sicker and becoming lethargic, and more red spots and patches of eczema were appearing around his face.

When an ambulance arrived they examined him and decided to take him to the hospital to monitor him while his allergy medications wear off. At just one year old, Dominic knows sign language. He has learned over 80 different signs since he was only two months old.

Kerri-Louise explained that she had a car accident when she was 16, which left her left leg paralyzed and also led to spinal injuries. She said: “He was born with a morphine addiction because of my disability. It’s neonatal abstinence syndrome, and when you’re in withdrawal, your body shakes and you get angry because you need something you can’t have.

“My eldest son (Matt, eight) has the same thing. So we did sign language with them both because even if they can’t speak, they can sign from the age of six or seven months.

“The most practical were ‘wounded’, ‘doctor’ and ‘doctor’. He can make very funny animals and animals like ‘monkey’ or ‘dog’. But the main things we needed him to know were things like “medicine”, which would really help us.

Baby 'Doodles' with mom Kerri-Louise
Baby ‘Doodles’ with mom Kerri-Louise

While waiting for treatment, Dominic would sign off that he had a headache, signaling to his parents that he might have a headache from the reaction.

Sign language is an important part of managing Dominic’s health, and the crèche has not hesitated to adopt it. They learned to understand some of the signs to meet Dominic’s needs.

Kerri-Louise said: “The nursery learned sign language so they could communicate with him as well. He’s probably been there for about six months. It started in their nursery and the child care staff learned sign language because he had been signing since he was about two months old.

Now Dominic has moved into the baby room with new staff who have embraced the language. His mum continued: “In this room he can actually sign a sentence, he can do two or three signs now. So unfortunately they (the staff) have the hardest job and they have to learn more signs to follow him.

Fortunately, due to the drug being administered so early in the reaction, Dominic’s symptoms did not progress much. He was released from the hospital fairly quickly and the doctor said they were “lucky” the reaction wasn’t worse.

Kerri-Louise said: ‘She was surprised her throat didn’t close on him, it could have been complete anaphylactic shock. But it was not, the reaction stopped at the swelling of the face.

She is grateful that the staff were so quick to respond, especially Olivia Nursery. She said: ‘She was in no way related to Dominic. It was not her responsibility. She went out of her way to know…all of her medications, all of her medical history.

“She got to know him so well that she could spot something so quickly and know it was serious. That says it all about this nursery, they are a million miles ahead. They just treat them like family.

The nursery staff who saved his life.  From left to right: Lauren, Jemma, Olivia and manager Kate Smithers
The nursery staff who saved his life. From left to right: Lauren, Jemma, Olivia and manager Kate Smithers

The reaction had the potential to be fatal, as it was completely unexpected and the symptoms were the “most severe”. But the actions of staff at Astbury Lane Nursery saved the baby ‘Doodles’ life.

Kerri-Louise explained that the nursery has been amazing with her allergies, and this incident is just a testament to their care and quality. She said: ‘When I mentioned his health issues, it was never a problem. Nothing is too much for this nursery, they made something that was so hard at home, such a worry, they made it easy.

“When he goes to nursery, I don’t worry, because I know for a fact that they will take care of him.”

It took a week for Dominic’s symptoms to disappear, but the situation could have been much worse if the nursery hadn’t reacted so quickly. Nursery manager Kate Smithers said she was “proud” of the team.

She said: “”After the girls noticed the mark on Dominic’s face, they immediately responded by giving him the necessary care and treatment. The team is amazing and the way they took control of the situation and knew something was wrong detracts from how seriously they take their role.

“From the moment they noticed the mark, administering the emergency medication took literally minutes. Throughout, they remained calm, focused and worked together as a team to support each other, Dominic and also his mother, Kerri.

“As a crèche, we are beyond proud of the team and their commitment to supporting all of our children and building these strong, professional relationships with their families. Dominic amazes us every day and how he has learned over 80 signs in British Sign Language with the support of her family.

“The team have arranged with Kerri to come and spend a few evenings and spend time teaching the staff signs to build their confidence and also so they can understand Dominic throughout the day. As a manager, I am incredibly proud of them for all they do every day for our children and their families.

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