A mum was questioned by doctors about abusing her baby after he developed mystery bruises, before a blood test confirmed he had leukaemia.
Beth Reilly, 23, became concerned after her little boy Bailey Kilbane, now 16 months, started developing strange bruises that did not heal after three weeks in October last year, along with flu-like symptoms.
She says that GPs and hospital doctors told her there was nothing wrong with her son, who was “so happy and smiley”, six times before he was finally diagnosed.
During her attempts to find out what was wrong with him, Ms Reilly claims doctors at Arrowe Hospital in Wirral, Merseyside, asked her if she was abusing her son, until a blood test eventually confirmed Bailey was suffering from lymphoblastic leukaemia.
It is a rare type of cancer that affects white blood cells and only around 790 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK, according to the NHS. Most cases of the disease develop in children, teenagers and young adults. While it is rare, it is the most common type of leukaemia that affects children.
Ms Reilly, from Wallasey, Merseyside, said being questioned by doctors about abusing her child was “horrible” but she hopes her experience encourages people to press for tests if you know something is not right.
She said: “People always just say that you know when your child is not right, and just at that moment that week I felt that. He was smiling, but I could just tell that there was something not right - you’d just look at him and he would look right through you back.
“If you’re worried, you need to press them to get tests done. I still often think back to the experience and it was horrible to be questioned about abusing your own child - but I know that they needed to do it.
“It made me feel bad and uncomfortable, but I knew that I had done nothing to harm him - so I’m happy I went through with it. What abusive mother would take her child to the hospital six times in a week anyway.
“Bailey is still very happy, but it’s just tough on him - and you can see that. We’re still a bit in denial that he’s actually ill and it’s already been months. He’s definitely been knocked a bit, he’s exhausted. He struggles to eat, so he’s now fed mostly through a feeding tube - it’s just not the normality we’re used to.”
‘I refused to leave unless they did a blood test’
Ms Reilly and her partner Brandon, 23, an electrical engineer, took Bailey to the doctors after noticing bruises on his legs which did not heal for more than three weeks.
Doctors first blamed Bailey’s symptoms on him falling over while learning to walk, but the mum-of-one’s persistence eventually concerned her GP, and referred her to the local hospital for tests.
On Bailey’s second check up at Arrowe Park Hospital, doctors agreed to ease her worries by performing a blood test and hours later returned the “devastating” news that he had lymphoblastic leukaemia.
She explained: “I think what concerned me most at first was that he became very anaemic. He was very tired, cold, and falling over a lot. He ended up having about 18 bruises and I got worried. I took him to see the GP, and they told me at first that she thought it was viral.
“I went back a second time that week and she could tell I was concerned, so she sent me to Arrowe Park for tests. Because I had no explanation for the bruises, when I was eventually referred to the hospital, I was questioned about it over and over by two nurses and a consultant together.
“It upset me, but I understood that they just needed to do it. They at first said that they were not worried and sent me home, but I later came back three more times. Eventually I said that I was not leaving unless they did a blood test, and they agreed to keep him in overnight and did tests that morning.”
Bailey has already had a bone marrow biopsy, three rounds of chemotherapy and is undergoing a spinal lumbar puncture every two weeks. She added: “We’ve all found it tough because he was our first baby, and we were so excited about that. All of his young years that he should be spending having fun and being a child, he’s now going to be going through treatment instead.
“It’s sad because he had just joined nursery, and he loved it - but I’ve had to take him out now. There’s many effects that the treatment could have on him, he’ll be having heart scans for the rest of his life.”
A Wirral University Teaching Hospital spokesperson said: “While we are unable to comment on individual cases, to ensure patient confidentiality, we can confirm that the Trust has safeguarding procedures in place that follow national legislation for both adults and children.
“This ensures the safety of the patients in our care and may mean staff will ask further questions when determining the cause of an illness or injury. We recognise that this can be distressing for parents, and so we ensure the utmost respect is given to them where any questions are raised. We hope that parents and carers will understand that it is a necessary and important aspect of our safeguarding responsibilities.”
A GoFundMe page has now been set up to help support Bailey’s recovery. More than £5,500 has already been raised towards the £6,000 target.