On April 5 2009 Conor, my 15 year old son, came to my work complaining of headache. I only had an hour left to work so I told him to sit in the car until I was finished. When we got home I gave him two paracetamol and sent him to bed. Conor is my second youngest of five sons aged 29 to 12 and out of all his brothers he has never been sick except for tonsillitis.
I checked on him a few times and he was feeling sick; I gave him drinks but he couldn't keep them down. I thought he had picked up a bug. The next morning I checked him before I left for work and he was sleeping.
For some unknown reason I left work early and got home about 4pm. My eldest son said Conor had been crying and the painkillers weren't helping his headache. I went to check on him and he begged me to help him and said he couldn't stand the pain any more. I checked him over - he had no pain in his neck and said the light didn't hurt his eyes. He had about five or six little spots on the inside of his arm. I asked my eldest son to check them with a glass; he said that you could see them faintly.
Our doctors' was closed so I called the duty doctor and was told to bring him in. He wasn't able to stand up or walk and one of my other sons had to dress him and carry him up the stairs. Conor is a big boy, he is about 6ft and weighs about 16 stone, so it was a bit of a struggle. I managed to get him into the surgery and the doctor took one look at him and said to get him back in the car - he would write a letter for the hospital and ring to tell them we were on our way.
Thankfully the hospital is only five minutes from the surgery. We got into A&E and he collapsed, was vomiting and delirious. They took him straight into a cubicle and at this stage he was punching and holding his head screaming and making long moaning sounds. The triage nurse had given him difene and I thought he was having a reaction to it because he was saying some really silly things and I thought he kept falling asleep, but I now know he was losing consciousness. It was now about 6pm and I should have been finishing work.
A few doctors came and examined him but no-one said anything. He wasn't able to answer their questions and most of the time he didn't know who I was. At this stage his hands were dark blue and his right side was ice-cold. Then a new doctor arrived - I call him Our Angel from God - Dr Rooney. He checked Conor over as best he could as at this stage he was highly agitated and wouldn't let anyone near him. By about 8pm they had taken blood and urine samples and they had come back clear.
Dr Rooney came in and said that as a precaution he was going to treat Conor for meningococcal meningitis and that if it wasn't that the drugs would not do him any harm, but if it was they would do him a power of good. But he was fighting them, he wouldn't let them get the drips in to start the treatment.
My gentle, quiet son was being held down by two doctors, three porters and two nurses. Eventually they had to sedate him to get the lines in. He was transferred to ICU and the lumbar puncture was done about 4am. Dr Rooney came out to the family room and told me and my eldest son that the fluid was cloudy, confirming meningitis. They wouldn't know for 48 hours what strain as the test had to go to Dublin, but he would continue treating him for the worst strain. When I asked how he could have contracted it, he said most likely from his tonsils. That doctor stayed with my baby for most of the next 36 hours.
Conor had been in ICU for two days; we had been at the hospital just sitting in the relatives' room waiting. I was able to go in and sit beside him for a few minutes in between his treatments. Then the doctor cane out on the Thursday afternoon and said that he didn't seem to be responding to the treatment and that we should prepare ourselves for the worst.
I went and stood outside the hospital. The sky was low heavy and black. I texted everyone on my phone: "whatever religion you are, whatever God you pray to please pray for Conor to get better". My phone did not stop - everyone assuring me that they were praying from Ireland and as far away as Australia. A few hours later I went outside again; the sky was still black and heavy but there were little blue holes in it. I thought to myself 'that is all the prayers going up'.
At about 10pm the doctor came out again and said he didn't know how or why but Conor seemed to be responding to the drugs and was trying to wake up. He felt that this was too soon so they put him into a deeper coma. The results came back the next day, Good Friday, that he had the meningococcol strain. Dr Rooney explained what the after effects could be. But Conor had stabilised and the longer he stayed asleep the better as his body had fought a mighty battle and was worn out.
They brought him out of the coma on Easter Monday. He was confused for a few hours but there didn't seem to be any lasting effects. The next day he was transferred to an isolation ward and two days later to a general ward. He was up and wandering around and escaping from the nurses to see his friends who had also kept a vigil down at the main reception for the six days that he was in ICU. The nurses and doctors have labelled him the miracle child.
It's now three months since I almost lost my precious son. He seems to have come through without any side effects apart from being a little less patient than before.