The Internet helped save my son’s life

When Tommy Toner’s son became ill in the middle of the night, he didn’t know what to do. Luckily, he Googled.

internet saved childs life


Our modern reliance on secure stable Internet is what has shaped my career.

Thanks to the Internet and the world’s reliance on connection, the web has given me a challenging and rewarding job as the Co-Founder of a UK challenger broadband company.

It’s also gives parents like me and my wife Brittany the ability to work from home, to stream Bluey when I need to entertain my toddler while I take a call, to research kid friendly trips, to order groceries and the sustainable baby products we love to the front door.

It also helped save my son’s life.

Levison was a pandemic baby – born amid the turmoil of Covid.

The usual NCT (National Childcare Trust) groups – the kind where you meet the couple who live around the corner in a church hall, secure future playdates and bond for life – wasn’t happening during Covid. However I found an online first aid course for babies which I was keen to join and convinced my wife Brittany it was the bear minimum for newborn prep.

I was of course hoping I woud never need it. But three days after the birth, when we were home settling into our baby bubble the course proved more than useful.

The birth had been incredible, we were committed to a natural birth in a birthing centre and it was everything we had wanted and more. Brittany endured a very long labour and lost a considerable amount of blood so her and Levison were held overnight as a precaution. Much to our pleasure they were released the next day with an all clear.

Over the next few days we introduced Levison to Brittany’s American family over Facetime and my parents stopped by our home to meet their grandson for the first time. All seemed to be going well we thought…

internet saved childs life

But Levison wasn’t well and later that night around 2am I woke up suddenly realising something wasn’t ok.

His breathing was laboured and he was grunting on the exhale, which sounded peculiar. He was lethargic and felt like a rag doll when I picked him up.

Googling your medical symptoms is often made light of – and result in dramatic diagnosis that are far from accurate – this time it was different.

Logging on I swiftly typed “newborn laboured breathing grunting”.

It turns out grunting on the exhale is a tell-tale sign of infection in a newborn and it led to a message on the NHS website telling me to call 111 who in turn told me to call our local hospital St Marys in London.

The person on the phone listened and told me we needed to get him to the hospital immediately.

It was 3.30am and I started packing a bag and Brittany said “What are you doing that for? We won’t be there long.”

We were there for a week.

You never think your kid is going to get bacterial meningitis and when I heard that diagnosis it was the scariest moment of my life. He had to have a spinal tap to start cultures to confirm the diagnosis and we were asked to leave the room. We sat in the waiting room listening to our newborn cry and felt helpless.

What’s more, because it was COVID only one of us could stay with him.

He went into a ward for immune-compromised children and because Brittany was the breastfeeding mother, she went with him. While recovering from birth just a few days prior. I was worried sick about them both.

Again, thanks to the Internet I was able to Facetime them. I could join in when the doctors visited, ask questions and stay in touch with what was happening and support Brittany. It made not being with them bearable.

Thanks to our extraordinary NHS we were all back home a week later but it could have been a different story.

If we’d been raising our son back when I was a child – before the internet – we most likely would have waited until the morning to take him to the hospital. Had we had done that the A&E doctors said the outcome could have been very different, and potentially tragic. Levison’s fever was so high he risked suffering permanent damage or death.

Today aged two he’s fully recovered but it got me thinking about how much a secure and reliable connection means to me and how we need to trust our online experience.

internet saved childs life

We’ve come so far in such a short time and it can be easy to forget how much we rely on connectivity.

Levison’s experience of the Internet will be very different to my childhood. My mum still hasn’t got email address and has never bought anything online –  she is a complete technophobe. Rather than a photo album in the cloud we’ve got those big photo albums of me as a child.

As a leader within a business, I’m proud of being a dad and I make a point in virtual meetings of having him around and setting a positive example. I hope it means those in the team know I understand it can sometimes be tricky to balance work and life, and I’ve got their back.

I’ll be forever thankful to those doctors and nurses who saved my son’s life. And I will never forget that moment in the middle of the night standing there searching for help online.

Tommy Toner is the Co-Founder, Chief Experience Officer of Cuckoo Broadband

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