We were delighted on 21/02/05 when I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy by Caesarean section. He was born Finn, 9.3lb.
The first few weeks went very well as Owen, my husband, myself and Oisin, Finn's brother who was three years and nine months at the time, got used to our little bundle of joy.
The breastfeeding was going really well and apart from some pain following the C-section everything was pretty good. Then on the 22nd of October 2005 our world was turned upside down. That day was a Saturday and about five o' clock that evening I noticed both Finn and Oisin were asleep, this was unusual as Finn did not sleep much at all. He slept for a long period of time, when he did wake up he was very hot and when I tried to put him to the breast he made a sound like a shrill cry. I wanted to bring him to the hospital but my husband said to wait till the morning.
The following morning, Sunday October 23rd 2005, Finn was very lethargic, he was not responding too much and was still very warm. We called the out of hours doctor who sent us to Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.
On the way in the taxi, Finn had his first seizure. I was petrified. Fifteen minutes after I arrived at the hospital, we were transferred to the resuscitation unit in the Accident and Emergency Unit. They examined Finn and within hours of arrival told me what no parent wants to hear, “your child is seriously ill with suspected pneumococcal meningitis”.
When my husband arrived, Finn had been sedated to give his brain time to rest and was then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We were told he had a fifty per cent chance of survival and the next 24 hours would be crucial.
Thankfully, Finn got through the night and spent the next five days in the ICU before being transferred to the paediatric ward, but he was by no means out of the woods. He spent nearly three weeks in hospital and was discharged on anti seizure medication, which he stayed on for eight months. Whilst I felt the hospital were amazing in the medical care they gave to Finn, as parents both Owen and I felt very isolated in terms of emotional support when Finn was discharged following such a traumatic event .
We had no idea he would be left with any side effects, he was neurologically fine. But we were to learn later that there is always a bigger picture in terms of serious childhood illness.
It was not till Finn started playschool that we felt and realised that he may have suffered some side effects in terms of attention difficulties and his difficulty in regulating his emotions. While Finn suffered no physical effects and loves sports and is a happy child, now at seven years old we see how having contracted pneumococcal meningitis at such a young age may have affected Finn psychologically. It was for this reason I contacted Meningitis Research Foundation to get some information and support.
Since then Finn has been diagnosed with Development Coordination Disorder. He undergoes a target occupational therapy programme and receives learning support hours in school also. He is also being investigated for ADD. But the future is very bright for Finn.
I hope this story will help other parents who may be going through a similar experience now, or educate other parents about the medical side of pneumococcal meningitis and our emotional journey.