When one-year-old Blake Murrell got another snotty nose and mild temperature following weeks of back-to-back colds, his parents thought little of it.
Sydney mum Michelle Murrell, 40, thought it was "just another daycare bug" that was causing him to feel a little down after starting months earlier. He was also teething.
But 10 days in and Blake took a turn for the worse. He started vomiting, was lethargic and "he was holding his head funny." He also wasn't eating.
That night, on August 7, Ms Murell rushed her son to the emergency department at Campbelltown Hospital, in the city's southwest. Little did she know he'd never return home.
"It's a living nightmare," she told Yahoo News Australia.
The little boy died the following Tuesday — just over one week later — from meningitis which caused significant swelling on the brain.
Although surgery to remove the spinal fluid had been successful, too much damage had been done to his brain.
"We were in shock really because you never expect it to happen to you. It was weird, " the mum of two said, adding she felt "kind of numb".
Long pregnancy battle
The Sydney mum, who works as a nurse, said Blake was "our little miracle". The couple had suffered five miscarriages after the birth of their first son Lachlan, now seven, so decided to try IVF.
"On the fifth attempt, we had Blake," she recalled. "I was very excited but very nervous, but it all went smoothly." And so did the first year of his life.
But on arriving at the hospital on Sunday, August 7, Blake's temperature had skyrocketed. He was taken in almost straight away, his mum recalled.
"Even though we’d been trying to keep him hydrated he was still very dehydrated. When [medical staff] were trying to get a drip in he started having seizure-like activity," she explained.
"I wasn’t sure at first but now looking back I can see [that he'd been having them at home].
"It wasn’t your typical body shaking which is what everybody thinks a seizure is, it was just jerkiness in his arm or leg."
While doctors didn't commit to a diagnosis right away, Ms Murell said they treated him for meningitis, "especially since I mentioned the stiff neck" — which is a common symptom.
Other common symptoms in children under two also include a high fever, constant crying, sluggishness, poor feeding, vomiting and difficulty waking from sleep.
Baby dies after week-long battle
After a long 12-hour wait, with his condition worsening, he was transferred to Sydney Children's Hospital in an ambulance the following day.
Ms Murrell and her husband John-Paul, 42, followed in their car.
"When we arrived they said he’d had more seizures and that they had to put the breathing tube in. We never saw him awake again after that. He stayed sedated," she said.
The week that followed was full of ups and downs. The parents received some hope that he was on the road to recovery.
But tragically, little Blake succumbed to his illness on Tuesday, August 16, when his parents agreed to turn off his life support.
"At that point, they said there was too much damage and he wouldn’t get better. [Doctors] said although he fought the infection it’s too late now," his grieving mum said.
"We knew we’d never be ready but we also knew we didn’t want to drag it out," she added.
So after two days of long goodbyes from family, including Blake's seven-year-old brother Lachlan, they finally put him to rest.
"It was hard to see him with all the tubes because he’s so little in the bed, but I didn’t want to leave his side," Ms Murerell said.
"It was awful, I was numb. It's not the thing I thought we'd ever be doing."
The journey home was possibly the hardest. Blake's toys and high chair were still as he'd left them before heading to the hospital a week earlier.
"We packed it all up and put it in his room. We couldn’t look at it," Ms Murrell said.
Road to recovery
Now, three months on, the grieving mum is planning on returning to work after being surrounded by friends and family.
A GoFundMe page set up by a family friend Leah Mula has helped raise the family almost $30,000.
The hopeful mum said she hasn't ruled out trying for another baby.
She's thankful for the donations her family has received so far, and said she doesn't know how she would have made it through if not for the help.
Ms Murrell, her husband and their son Lachlan are attempting to carry on as normal.
"We're better now. We’re trying to move forward," she said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.