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Mom Whose Crippling PTSD Caused Her To Spend Her Daughter's Birthday Hiding In The Bathroom Opens Up About Her Ordeal

Faye, Ruby, Darcy and Daniel at Great Yarmouth beach in 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

A life coach who could not enjoy her daughter's birthday until she turned seven told how previous celebrations had left her crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – caused by nearly losing her little girl to sepsis as a baby.


Faye Cox, 44, recalled how her delight when Darcy was born on September 5, 2012, at Kent's Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) – giving her eldest girl Ruby, now nine, a sister – turned to terror when she became covered in scabs at three weeks old.

Diagnosed with the highly contagious skin condition impetigo soon after, Darcy was hospitalized when she developed sepsis – a life-threatening reaction to an infection – leaving her family worried sick that she would die.

Daniel, Darcy and Faye at a family friend's wedding in 2018(PA Real Life/Collect)

Faye, of Sidcup, Kent, England, whose husband, Daniel, 44, is a business manager, recalled:

"With every blink the scabs were getting worse and worse."
"I was trying to comfort her, but if I hugged her, then put her down, my shoulder was covered in scabs. Her skin was falling off and it was like crepe paper."

A model baby until she was two weeks old, Faye and Daniel then thought their daughter had developed a nasty cold.

Darcy at three weeks old, suffering with impetigo (PA Real Life/Collect)

But a week later, a rash formed all over her body, together with a tiny scab under her nose, which led their GP to suspect impetigo.

"She wasn't eating or sleeping, but at the time we had no idea how dangerous impetigo could be," Faye explained.

"We just thought she was fighting off a little infection and she'd be okay in no time."

Instead, almost overnight, scabs sprang up all over the baby's body and, visiting the GP for the second time in two days, stronger antibiotics were prescribed, to be ingested with a syringe, and Faye was told to take Darcy to hospital if the symptoms worsened.

But when Daniel came home from work just hours later, the couple agreed she had deteriorated and rushed her to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, southeast London, where the head of pediatrics ran blood tests which confirmed that her impetigo had developed into deadly sepsis.

Faye said:

"Daniel's always so level-headed and when he asked if Darcy was going to make it, it all hit me at once."

Darcy at three weeks old, suffering with impetigo (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"I'd been fine up until that point, but I just crumpled onto the floor."

Told that if they had waited just a day longer their daughter would be dead, the next 24 hours were touch and go, with Darcy being transferred to PRUH, where she was given antibiotics every hour.

"By day two her scabs had become so bad you could peel off a whole shell of her body," Faye recalled.

Darcy at three weeks old, suffering with impetigo (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"Nurses were coming in every half hour to administer drugs. I didn't leave her side – even to eat."

Luckily, by day four the scabbing was healing and, much to Faye's relief, after six days – every minute of which she stayed beside her – Darcy was discharged.

Put on a strong dose of antibiotics, to be taken three times a day for three weeks, by the third week the baby girl was back to her "bright and bubbly" self.

But the same could not be said for Faye, who was plagued by flashbacks of what happened every time Darcy celebrated a birthday – which would see the traumatized mum curling up in a "heap on the bathroom floor."

Then in October last year, deciding to study how to administer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – often used to treat anxiety – thinking it would be useful for her work, she suddenly realized she was suffering with PTSD herself.

An anxiety condition triggered by a distressing event, she realized it was being sparked by Darcy's birthdays.

Darcy at six months old (PA Real Life/Collect)

But, after the penny dropped, she managed to use the techniques she learned to beat the condition once and for all.

And when Darcy turned seven last September, she chose to celebrate at a "rather posh curry restaurant," and Faye was able to tuck in without being plagued with flashbacks.

"In a way there was a touch of regret on the day," she explained. "I wish I'd known about PTSD before, instead of just getting on with it."

Darcy's first birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"On the other hand I was so pleased, knowing I could move forward, able to celebrate and be fully present for Darcy on her birthday."

Now happy to speak out to raise awareness of impetigo, sepsis and PTSD, she said:

"I believe everything that happens in life comes when it is meant to and now I finally feel ready to share my story."
"Most people know about impetigo, but not many people realize just how dangerous it is and the fact it can lead to sepsis."

She continued:

"But I want I want people to see what we've been through to where we are now. To know that there is always hope for the future."

Until Darcy's impetigo, everything had gone like clockwork.

Faye had enjoyed a smooth pregnancy and a labor so quick that Daniel nearly missed the birth, as he was stuck in a traffic jam, after which mother and baby were discharged from hospital the same day.

Darcy's first birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)

But, following the trauma of Darcy's sepsis, for the next four months, Faye admits she went into "mummy overdrive," becoming so fiercely overprotective she would not let anybody else even change her diapers or feed her.

"Every time Darcy cried, I'd think she was in serious pain, when in reality she was just hungry or grouchy," she said.

"I secretly didn't want anybody going near her and would insist on carrying out even the most minor of baby duties myself. Poor Daniel, it really did put a strain on our relationship."

Darcy's second birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"Then I would be hit with guilt for neglecting Ruby, because Darcy was taking up so much of my time and thoughts."

But, while Faye overcame her constant fear by the time her daughter reached six months, in the build up to her first birthday on September 5, 2013, she started experiencing terrible flashbacks of her time in the hospital – sending her anxiety levels sky high.

Once more, constantly fearing that Darcy would die, she explained:

"Something just switched in me and I became fixated on the idea that a bad thing was going to happen to her."

She continued:

"It's so hard to put into words what it is like having PTSD. It was as if I was back at the hospital, being told she might not survive."

In the end, Faye was so overwhelmed by her fears that, on Darcy's first birthday she locked herself in the bathroom to cry – having the same traumatic reaction to all her birthdays, up to and including her sixth.

Faye, who did not even tell her husband how she was feeling, continued:

"These intensely traumatic feelings would last for two or three weeks, starting just before her birthday and continuing until about a fortnight afterwards."

Darcy's fourth birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"I didn't know what was happening. I felt so stupid and didn't want to share it with anyone."

Then, a month after Darcy turned six, when she had once again ended up in a heap on the bathroom floor, a course showing her how to administer CBT revealed to Faye the cause of her own annual breakdowns.

"I wanted to broaden my knowledge as a life coach, so decided to take a course in CBT," she recalled.

Darcy's fifth birthday, with Ruby (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"I learned about anxiety and depression, before we started a module on PTSD."
"That was when the penny dropped, as I read through the symptoms of the condition – flashbacks, irrational thoughts and anxiety – it sounded just like me."
"Suddenly there was an explanation for what had been happening for six years – I had PTSD."

So, armed with the tools to put her CBT studies into practice, she was able to use her knowledge to heal herself.

"I ended up coaching myself – something I've never done before," she said.

"I reframed my thoughts and would rationalize any negative emotion or feeling by stating the facts and reminding myself of all the things Darcy has done in her life so far."

Darcy (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued:

"For the first time in six years, when her seventh birthday arrived in September 2019 I was finally able to enjoy the day without running off to the bathroom, crippled by anxiety."

But Faye will never underplay the reason why she was left with such lasting trauma and wants other parents to realize the potential dangers of impetigo in youngsters and to warn them to be extra vigilant, as sepsis may not be far away.

She said:

"I've always wanted to share with other parents how dangerous impetigo is, especially in newborns."

Faye and Darcy on a walk earlier this year (PA Real Life/Collect)

She concluded:

"Seven years on Darcy is an absolute bundle of joy, but when she developed sepsis, it was a very close call."