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Boy, six, can no longer walk, talk or swallow after sepsis

A woman has revealed that her six-year-old son can no longer walk, talk or swallow after suffering from sepsis in a bid to raise money for specialist treatment. 

Grainne Mccullough, 37, From Drogheda, Ireland, claims she was petrified when her son, Bryan Bru, was taken to hospital with sepsis on 17th September 2017 at the age of four. 

Bryan had suffered a viral infection just days before, which Grainne never suspected to be sepsis. 

She said: ‘At first he got plenty of fluids and we were sent home from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital after just three days, but the next day he was really tired and pale. 

‘He started vomiting violently and even had a seizure – I shut down and couldn’t breathe, it was pure panic.’ 

Bryan Bru can no longer walk, talk or swallow after suffering from sepsis

Bryan’s dad, whom Grainne doesn’t wish to name, went to the hospital with the toddler straight away where his condition detreated as Grainne followed in care behind. 

When he arrived at the hospital, doctors instantly knew to treat Bryan for sepsis, which was caused by pneumonia and colitis in his stomach, with dialysis and blood transfusions. 

However, Bryan had become so ill as his kidneys and heart were under pressure that he had to be put on life support. 

Bryan was then quickly moved to Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin after just 12 years where he spent 10 days in the pediatric intensive care unit (PCIU) and further weeks in a children’s ward until December. 

‘Doctors told me it didn’t look good and sent a priest up to us in the PCIU waiting room,’ Grainne explained.

‘He had so much lactate in his blood that no-one expected him to survive. 

‘They said dialysis could kill him but it was also the only thing that could save him, so we had to try.’ 

To make matters worse, Bryan’s blood has such a high level of acid that it was restricting oxygen in his blood and brain. 

An MRI scan performed on Bryan while he was on life support revealed changes to the basal ganglia part of the brain – which is responsible for controlling movement. 

Upon learning that her son may not be able to walk again, Grainne described her reaction: ‘My world crumbled, I was so afraid – inwardly afraid mostly for Byran. ‘But despite all odds, Bryan’s dialysis saved his life and he pulled through.’

Bryan was eventually sent home with a prognosis of kidney, heart and brain damage on palliative care. 

 He was allowed to officially return home on December 1st 2017. Since then, life has changed dramatically for the family, as Grainne has left her job as a health care assistant and separated from Bryan’s dad, whom she was with for seven years. 

She said: ‘Myself and Bryan have had a lot of adjusting to do as he has a lot of issues with pain, swallowing and has no balance.

‘He is currently taking baclofen, diazepam, clonidine, and melatonin. ‘He drags himself around the floor to get around, he is in pain, he gets very frustrated, and also only sleeps 4/5 hours a night.’ 

Although Grainne is doing her best to care for Bryan, she claims he needs special care to help with his neuro disability, which causes his pain and swallowing problems. 

She said: ‘The waiting lists are horrendous here and he needs specialist care for his heart and other issues. 

‘He is now under a private paediatrician in Northern Ireland, who have referred him to specialists, which is what I am raising funds for. 

‘He needs this for his further and without the fundraising, I don’t know where we would be.’ 

Grianne also wants other parents to be more aware of sepsis, so they can spot the signs and get treatment for their children sooner.

‘Always listen to your gut, if you feel something’s not right, go with it,’ she commented. 

‘It can happen so so fast and the mortality rates are high. ‘The more awareness there is, the more kids that might be saved.’ Grianne fundraising page for Byran Bru can be found here.


Sepsis occurs when the body reacts to an infection by attacking its own organs and tissues.

Some 44,000 people die from sepsis every year in the UK. Worldwide, someone dies from the condition every 3.5 seconds. 

Sepsis has similar symptoms to flu, gastroenteritis and a chest infection.

These include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you are dying
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

Symptoms in children are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Fits or convulsions
  • Mottled, bluish or pale skin
  • Rashes that do not fade when pressed
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling abnormally cold

Under fives may be vomiting repeatedly, not feeding or not urinating for 12 hours. 

Anyone can develop sepsis but it is most common in people who have recently had surgery, have a urinary catheter or have stayed in hospital for a long time.

Other at-risk people include those with weak immune systems, chemotherapy patients, pregnant women, the elderly and the very young.

Treatment varies depending on the site of the infection but involves antibiotics, IV fluids and oxygen, if necessary.

Source: UK Sepsis Trust and NHS Choices