'They told me I’m really lucky that he’s still here': Wigan borough mum's relief as son continues to recover from serious illnesses
Levi Hewitt spent three months in hospital after being struck down with meningitis B and sepsis just days into 2023.
His mum Kealey Taylor rushed him to Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department after collecting him from school on January 4. He was lethargic, had a high temperature and felt unwell.
Little Levi’s condition quickly deteriorated and he was put in an induced coma, before he was transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for specialist treatment.
He was put on dialysis due to problems with his kidneys and later transferred from the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to the hospital’s burns unit, due to severe blisters caused by meningitis.
Levi battled the two serious illnesses and made steady improvement over the weeks and months that followed.
He was finally allowed to return to his home in Leigh with his mum Kealey and dad Lee Hewitt – who had been constantly at his bedside – on March 30.
Kealey said: “It’s overwhelming to see him now. He has done so amazingly. He has not moaned at all. The thought of how poorly he was to how he is now is overwhelming.”
It has been a long road for Levi, but he has made good progress and is now recovering at home.
He still goes to the hospital several times a week for new dressings on the blisters on his legs, with his mum changing them on the other days.
Kealey said: “When he had the rash and the sepsis, his legs were really badly affected. They were both purple and blistered – that’s why he needed to be on the burns unit.”
Levi initially walked with a frame when he left hospital, but he can now move around with splints, and he is undergoing physiotherapy to build up his strength.
Kealey said: “He can’t walk or stand up without the splints that he has on. He has them on all the time.
"He has different ones to wear when he goes to bed.”
Levi’s ankles are still very stiff and doctors have yet to decide what further treatment he will need, but he could require surgery in future.
He has already gained more mobility and strength in his hands, which had seized up, and now only needs to wear splints on them at night.
Levi’s kidney function has also been restored following concerns about it in hospital.
Kealey said: “Right at the beginning we were told his kidneys were only working at 10 to 15 per cent, but in hospital they went back to normal more or less.
"We still have to go for check-ups with the kidney specialist to make sure they are as they should be.
"His body really took a massive hit. They told me I’m really lucky that he’s still here.”
Levi did become “a bit more reserved” while he was ill, but Kealey says he is more like himself again now and continues to be a “chatty lad”.
He is now focusing on his recovery and while the long-term prognosis remains unknown, it is hoped that Levi will continue to make progress.
There are plans for him to eventually make a phased return to lessons at St Peter’s Primary School in Leigh and he hopes to one day resume playing football.
Kealey said: “It has been hard for him. He has his off days, but he has done his best and just gets on with things.”
The whole community rallied round to support Levi while he was in hospital, with members of St Peter’s Church in Hindley and other churches in the borough praying for him.
His coaches and team-mates at Cheeky Champs football team in Hindley raised money for the family and sent video messages to Levi passing on their get well wishes.
And there was plenty of support for Kealey and Lee, from accommodation in family rooms at the hospital and then charity Ronald McDonald House to a psychologist for them to speak to as they supported Levi through his illness and recovery.
Kealey said: “I can’t thank Ronald McDonald House enough. We didn’t get a room at the beginning – we stayed in the family rooms in the hospital – and then got a room there. They were really supportive. We could just have a chat with them. They were really welcoming.”
Kealey praised the staff who cared for her son while he was in hospital and took him into their hearts, even giving presents to Levi for his fifth birthday, which was days after he was discharged, and for Easter.
She highlighted the efforts of a play specialist, who “formed a bond” with Levi as she distracted him while he had his dressings changed and took him to a multi-sensory room and rooftop play area at the hospital.
"They have been absolutely amazing at the hospital,” she said. “When it was his birthday, they nurses bought him a present.
"We still go to see them on the ward.”
Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.
According to the NHS, symptoms can include a high temperature, being sick, headache, a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness or unresponsiveness, and seizures.
People are advised to call 999 immediately or go to an A&E department if they suspect someone has meningitis or sepsis.