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meningitis & septicaemia can kill in hours!

People who are faced with meningitis and septicaemia have to act fast to help save a life.

Fraser MacIntosh

Meningococcal disease at 13months

Meningococcal disease

My wee boy Fraser was 13 months old, it was August 2007. We were at my niece’s birthday party around 5pm on a sunny Friday. Fraser woke from a nap and was really upset, we couldn't calm him down. As he had been unwell on and off for a few weeks and we had taken him to the doctors and the health visitors already, we put it down to teething and took him home. In the evening he was very unsettled and finally fell asleep around 11pm. This was very late for him. Looking back on it his breathing was rapid and shallow and his legs were cold, symptoms I was unaware of.
 
Fraser woke up around 4.30am, we went to check him and give him some Calpol and noticed he had a dirty nappy. This nappy saved Fraser's life. I changed him in the dark except for the hall light and noticed a big purple mark on his side. I shouted my husband and he knew it was serious. I called NHS24 and told them Fraser had a rash that was not going away.  I could see him turning grey before my eyes and it was taking a long time to clarify his symptoms over the phone, so I decided we would go to the nearest hospital, which was Hairmyres.
 
NHS24 tried to call us back to redirect us to Wishaw General as it has a paediatrics ward, but we were already en route.  We were just anxious to get him to hospital as the rash on Fraser was spreading rapidly – we could actually see it coming out!  The hospital staff were waiting for us when we arrived and the first doctor to see him took one look and said “Oh Crikey”, never words you want to hear from a doctor in an emergency! They started working on Fraser immediately, putting lines in him all over the place and he was on oxygen. They called in another doctor and were also on the telephone taking instruction from Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children. We were taken to the relatives’ room and told he was a very, very sick young man. The doctor just kept telling us this over and over. At this point I asked my husband if he thought Fraser was going to die.  He never answered my question, just to say how much he loved him.
 
A paediatric team of four were sent for from Yorkhill Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t believe the amount of equipment they brought for my tiny baby boy. It was strewn all over the place and there was a serious sense of urgency. We were told Fraser was being put into an induced coma and we had to go in and say goodbye as they prepared him for transfer. It took a long time to get him stable enough for the journey and we weren’t allowed in the ambulance with him. On arrival Fraser was put into intensive care and we had another long wait before seeing him. It felt like hours and we didn’t even know if he had made it safely. Our families had arrived; I don’t know what we would have done without them, they were an amazing support. I remember intensive care being so quiet. All these babies were so ill. There was no noise except the beeping of machines. It was confirmed Fraser had meningococcal septicaemia. The doctors told us they had done everything they could and it was up to Fraser now to hopefully react to all the drugs

Well, luck was on our side and wee Fraser pulled out all the stops and fought like mad. It never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t make it. I guess I never let it. He was in intensive care for one week and another week on the ward. He developed septic arthritis on his hip and had to go for an operation to get his hip cleaned out as by this time his foot had swollen up. He was in plaster for two weeks from his chest to his ankles. Fraser attended Yorkhill as an outpatient until he was four years old (he is now six), for follow-ups to check his hearing and his hips. We were ecstatic when he was finally discharged.

In the aftermath I decided to write to NHS24 to highlight the call handler’s uncertainty about the seriousness of Fraser’s symptoms – the call took longer than I thought it should at this critical time.  They took it very seriously saying they would review their procedures.  Since then when I’ve phoned them about my children, I notice they ask about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia right away which I find really reassuring.
 
During Fraser's recovery I made up my mind that the least I could do was to raise money to help anyone else in our situation or similar. We felt so grateful for all the people involved in saving Fraser's life that even now I cannot put into proper words how thankful we are. The doctors and nurses were truly outstanding. I decided to have a race night with a difference, which involved people reeling in wooden horses up a dance floor, raffles, stand up bingo, dancing and lots of prizes. It was really hard work organising it all and took me about six months but was worth all the begging, borrowing and stealing! It was a fantastic success and with the help of all my family and friends we managed to raise £8729.48 which was split between Meningitis Research Foundation – without the research they provide Fraser might not be here today – and Yorkhill Children's Foundation, who did a truly amazing job saving wee Fraser's life.

I have read lots of stories on the Book of Experience and some of the people’s symptoms did not seem as far advanced as Fraser’s and they were not as fortunate as him. I look at him every day and I have no idea how he survived. We are so lucky and I never forget that, not for one second.

SARA MACINTOSH

AUGUST 2012


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