Finn Smith lost limbs during his battle with the deadly meningococcal disease. Picture: Lachie Millard
Finn Smith lost limbs during his battle with the deadly meningococcal disease. Picture: Lachie Millard

Brutal reality of monster disease

FINN Smith's first amputation was on Christmas Eve.

Then, three days after losing most of his left leg below the knee, the little boy was back in the operating theatre.

His right hand and right foot were taken, followed by the fingers on his left hand.

"His fingertips were black and dry, like raisins," said mum Sarah Coureas, 38, of Sippy Downs on the Sunshine Coast.

Finn Smith, pictured with mum Sarah Coureas, lost limbs during his battle with the deadly meningococcal disease. Picture: Lachie Millard
Finn Smith, pictured with mum Sarah Coureas, lost limbs during his battle with the deadly meningococcal disease. Picture: Lachie Millard

Meningococcal is a brutal disease. Finn contracted Queensland's most common strain, B, on November 21, 2013. He was 13 months old.

"He is one of the lucky ones," said Ms Coureas, a receptionist in a medical practice in Maroochydore.

Finn before Meningococcal disease struck.
Finn before Meningococcal disease struck.

"His age was a blessing because he doesn't remember a time when he had his hands and feet."

Finn is now 5 and in Prep at Chancellor State College. He wants to be a police officer when he grows up. He loves chicken curry, dinosaurs and digging up vegetables in the garden he and mum planted.

"With his one thumb and his three stumps, he can write and hold things, and he wants to be treated like any other kid," Ms Coureas said.

"I'm just bursting with pride, and so thankful he's here and that the world hasn't missed out on him."

Ms Coureas and Finn's father Jason Smith, an electrician, were due to take their only child to the Royal Children's Hospital on November 22, 2013, for a routine check-up as Finn was underweight.

Finn will have surgery until he stops growing.
Finn will have surgery until he stops growing.
Finn lost fingers on his left hand.
Finn lost fingers on his left hand.

While Mr Smith was ordering the food, Ms Coureas noticed a small grey dot on Finn's forehead.

"It looked like a pencil mark and I tried to rub it off," she said.

Finn had been unwell the previous evening - restless, runny nose, crying - and about midnight, Ms Coureas called a doctor who prescribed antibiotics.

Sick in hospital.
Sick in hospital.

Mr Smith was at the chemist when it opened at 8am.

Two hours later, when Ms Coureas noticed the grey mark, she knew something was wrong.

After surgery.
After surgery.

"There were grey bruises all over his chest and I panicked and said, 'Cancel the fish and chips, we need to get to a hospital, now!'."

Doctors at Redcliffe Hospital diagnosed meningococcal and Finn was transferred to the Royal Children's and placed in an induced coma.

"His organs were shutting down and they'd pumped him with so many antibiotics that he was swollen like a sumo wrestler," Ms Coureas said.

Finn spent two and a half weeks in a coma and didn't leave hospital until February 2014. Since then, he has had nine pairs of prosthetic feet.

Finn is considered one of the lucky ones. Picture: Lachie Millard
Finn is considered one of the lucky ones. Picture: Lachie Millard

"He will be in and out of surgery until he stops growing," Ms Coureas said.

Finn wasn't immunised against the B strain as a vaccine wasn't then available.

In his school uniform.
In his school uniform.

Now that it is, Ms Coureas wants it accessible for every family. Doses of Bexsero cost upwards of $120 and babies can require four; other people need two.

"I understand it is expensive, but it is more expensive to care for kids who face a lifetime of disability," she said.

"The trauma for families is huge and meningococcal doesn't only strike kids, so it is ridiculous that governments won't just put it out there.

"What's the price of a life? I'd be one angry bloody mother if my child had died."



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