Residents of Bishop's Stortford street emerge from lockdown to sing Happy Birthday to toddler after his suspected coronavirus ordeal in hospital
Toddler Edward Aylott's recovery from "the hardest and scariest thing we've ever gone through in our lives" made his second birthday extra-special for his mum and dad Rebecca and Dean.
But it was the response of their neighbours in Proctors Way, Bishop's Stortford, to their son's recovery which made it an unforgettable day.
Just two weeks before, the celebration had seemed "unimaginable". As their son struggled to breathe in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge with suspected Covid-19, they had feared the worst.
Edward had become delirious with a dangerously high temperature of 39.9C – normal body temperature is 37C – and was shaking uncontrollably when they took him to hospital.
The timeline was terrifying. What started as a "little cough" on March 17 progressed rapidly until he was seriously ill with "cold hands, blue in colour, cold feet, delirious and almost sounding possessed, with erratic breathing, shaking uncontrollably and unable to walk, and then sick".
By March 21, Edward was admitted to hospital with just his mum allowed at his bedside. Rebecca and Dean, both 32, explained: "The doctors suspected and presumed Covid-19, but without needing oxygen we were allowed home for him to rest and recover in the early hours, so no test was carried out.
"It's been a rollercoaster of a journey over the last couple of weeks and a struggle keeping his temperature down, which brought all of the symptoms back every time. We were alternating medications every three hours round the clock. Finally, we think he's out of the woods, albeit still with a bad chest."
Rebecca added: "If it was Covid he had, it certainly wasn't mild as often suggested in children. It was the hardest and scariest thing we've ever gone through in our lives. It feels so good to have our gorgeous little man back and full of beans again."
Their relief is shared by their neighbours, who have been shopping and picking up medication for the family as Edward recovers at home, and they showed it as he turned two last Tuesday (April 7).
Rebecca said: "It wasn't quite the birthday we had planned – a trip to CBeebies Land – but turned out to be quite possibly the most touching birthday he'll ever have.
"At 5pm, the whole of our street came out on their doorsteps to sing Happy Birthday, complete with lots of cheering, and many cards, gifts and home-made posters were left on our doorstep and driveway. One lady even sent a recording of herself playing Happy Birthday to Edward on the cello!
"We feel extremely lucky to live in a road with such wonderful neighbours, many of whom we didn't even know before this whole situation. I sincerely hope that some good can come of this and the community spirit continues when this nightmare is over."
The experience has cemented the family's decision to make Bishop's Stortford their home, where they have lived for six years. Dean, a project manager for Igus Bearings, is using his skills to use a 3D printer to make components for face shields to be donated to the NHS while working at home. He has also set up a team at the company's factory in Northampton to produce 1,000 a week to be distributed nationally. Rebecca is a commercial administrator for Connect Scaffolding at Hadham Park, Stortford.
The couple met in Tenby in Wales in 2005 when they were just 17. Rebecca is originally from Staffordshire and moved south when she was 18 to be with Dean, who at the time lived in Upminster, east London, where he grew up.
After buying their first home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in 2009, they moved to Hertfordshire in 2014. Rebecca said: "Bishop's Stortford is where we plan to stay and now call home, having started our family here and made friends."