A family had their lives turned upside down after an idyllic lockdown walk is thought to have resulted in their children catching life-threatening E.coli, leaving one of their sons needing a kidney transplant.
Louise, 40, a primary school teacher, and Anthony McFaulds, 46, a sales engineer, were loving being able to spend more time with sons, Leo, eight, and Samuel, four.
Anthony was furloughed from his job as a sales engineer and the family were enjoying being out in Elgin, Moray, where they had recently moved, with the boys climbing trees and gates, and playing on haystacks in the countryside.
But in May 2020, both Leo and Samuel became seriously ill with what the family believed to be a stomach bug.
Unfortunately, however, it turned out the boys had contracted E.coli, which went on to cause a rare kidney condition called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS), resulting in anaemia and kidney failure.
"We had a picture postcard lifestyle and it just changed in a moment, what we thought was just a tummy bug ravaged them," Anthony says.
Both boys were urgently transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) in Glasgow after they began suffering from organ failure.
Samuel made a full recovery, but Leo remained in hospital for months and required dialysis three times a week.
Their mother Louise then had one of her kidneys removed and transplanted successfully into Leo in mid-February, after it became clear treatment with dialysis, which had helped Samuel recover, was not working.
“To have both boys struck down with the same illness and both having lifesaving treatment at the same time was harrowing," Louise explains.
"It was an awful time for our family as it came on so suddenly.
"Thankfully Samuel recovered relatively quickly, but Leo went from being a typical happy, healthy boy, who played in the garden with his brother and attended school, to being completely hospital-bound and unable to fully engage with normal life.
"But his bravery and optimism through this has been inspiring."
Anthony said it felt like ten years' of events rolled into one as he warned parents to be aware of the bug, which can be prevalent at petting zoos and farms.
"We were really enjoying the first lockdown, I was furloughed for a month or two and the boys were off school, the pressures weren't there," he explains.
"The weather was great and we were out each day cycling and having picnics, then it turned upside down around 25 May.
"We think the boys must have picked up the bug from an infected animal or farm gate, or from touching their shoes.
"We narrowed it down to three days but we are not sure which one - catching tadpoles in a pond, I took the boys for a cycle and they played on hay bales, and there was a long walk there they were climbing gates and trees.
"All these innocent childhood activities - we will never truly know which is troubling, as a parent you want to protect your kids."
Watch: Teacher donates kidney to school janitor.
Samuel became ill first with Leo's symptoms developing about three days later.
After E.coli was detected, Public Health Scotland quizzed the family on how they stored food and were concerned about a potential wider outbreak, but officials now believe the boys contracted it from the countryside.
While Samuel responded to dialysis treatment and was in hospital for around three weeks, it became clear the treatment was not having the desired impact on Leo.
Leo was in hospital for around two-and-a-half months, with dialysis four times a week and went on to have a kidney transplant earlier this year.
“I was naturally over the moon when we found I was a match," says Louise.
Nearly a year after the the boys fell ill, Leo has continued to recover, going back to school on a part-time basis, but he will need ongoing renal treatment.
“Leo will always have kidney disease, and Samuel and myself will have follow up for some time to come," Louise explains.
"We know there will be bumps in the road ahead, but to look back six months, to compare where we are now it’s a miracle really.
"Leo now has his life back and we’ll be counting the small milestones – going back to school, going swimming and maybe even a holiday – as victories and we will never take any of these happy family moments for granted in future.”
The couple credit the medical staff for helping save their boys' lives.
"We have somehow managed to get through this still standing," Anthony adds. "The medics were incredible, they saved both our boys' lives."
The family are now keen to urge other parents to take caution when allowing kids to play near livestock.
"We got E.coli from somewhere, we were being vigilant," Anthony explains. "Our lives are now about our child who has chronic kidney disease, it has changed our life.
"That hazard is there, it will devastate your life if you are unlucky enough to catch it."
Additional reporting SWNS.