A heartbroken mum has released the final picture of her dying 14 month old son to raise awareness for meningitis.

Gaynor McConnell, 33, is determined to show other parents that meningitis doesn’t always start with a mottled rash after losing her son, Cayden, to the deadly disease.

The shocking image of the 14 month old shows him lifeless hooked up to several life support machines as he battles meningitis .

Despite the families heartbreak since his death, Gaynor, from Manchester, has decided to publicise the image in order to raise awareness.

Now, four years on, Cambridge University Hospital have admitted that the care was below standard after they missed crucial warning signs in his early care.

Gaynor said: “I was watching him on the bed and he was lifeless, I knew straight away that something was wrong.

“Since birth Cayden had battled viral infections and flu-like symptoms, he’d even battled meningitis once before at four months old.

“He was a real little fighter so when he started to become lethargic in February 2012, I never imagined he was going to die.

“Just a few weeks before he was happy and smiling on the trampoline with me as we took photos together.

“It was incredibly hard to share his final picture but I want to ensure other parents are aware of the symptoms and never take no for an answer.”

“Cayden had the warning signs which sadly the doctors ignored, the rash is often the final symptom and not the first like most parents think.

“It’s why I’ve decided to share pictures of Cayden. He looked like any other boy but he was dying inside.

“Hopefully these pictures will make all other parents think about what happened and not accept doctors dismissing their concerns.”

Read her full story here.

Meningitis Symptoms via Meningitis Centra Aust

Meningitis can be hard to recognise in the early stages.

Symptoms can be similar to those of the common flu and can develop quickly, over a matter of hours.

The main symptoms to look out for are fever, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and drowsiness or altered consciousness. The signs and symptoms do not appear in a definite order and some may not appear at all.

This symptoms list does not include every possible sign and symptom of meningitis. Contact your local healthcare professional to ask about the most common symptoms in your country.

It’s important to know the warning signs and to get medical treatment fast. Until the cause of meningitis is known, it should be regarded as a medical emergency.

Know the Symptoms

Arching of the back (infants)
Behavioural changes
Blank, staring expression
Bulging fontanelle (infants)
Cold hands and feet
Dislike of being handled (infants)
Drowsy or difficult to wake
Listless, less responsive
Loss of appetite, refusing food (infants)
Muscle, leg or joint pain
Neck retraction with arching of the back (infants)
Pale or blotchy skin
Rash or spots that don’t fade with pressure (also called purpure or petechiae)*
Rapid breathing
Seizures, fits or convulsions
Sensitivity to light
Severe headache
Stiff neck
Unusual high-pitched cry (infants)

*Not everyone who contracts meningitis will get a rash. Don’t wait for a rash to appear before getting help.

  • Some of those symptoms could suddenly appear whilst a baby is sleeping and not appear obvious.
    It is not unusual for a baby to occasionally sleep longer than normal.
    I know an adult whose major symptom looked like flu until he suddenly got excruiating pain in his ears, one much worse than the other.


  • Wow, what a massive list of symptoms! I only knew of the rash. The medical authorities do need to make people more aware of these


  • Aw bless you Gaynor when you grieve the loss of your beautiful son !!
    Thank you for sharing your experience and raising awareness of this dreadful disease !


  • poor little angel. Such heartbreak for his family


  • How awful! I can’t even imagine what this poor woman must have gone through and to lose her little boy- I just have no words.


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