George Benjamin Agar
It was on Friday 26th March 2004 that as new parents we were given the crushing diagnosis of pneumococcal meningitis. Our gorgeous baby boy, who was always smiling, had been fighting this infection for days and we were so clueless to the symptoms of this strain that our naivety had threatened his life.
My husband, mother and I had all been ill with a cold and sore throats and now it seemed that our beautiful baby, George, was coming down with the same thing as us. He had a raised temperature and wasn't himself. He didn't want to be handled much, just left to sleep, and on the Thursday I noticed that his little hands were blue and mottled. I rubbed them to try and get the colour back into them and to keep them warm. That night, through the baby monitor, we could hear him snuffling and moving about. We kept a close eye on him but thought that the wonders of Calpol would fix it.
The next morning my husband went to work and my mum, who was a district nurse, called round to see George and how he was doing. I owe her my life, because without my baby, I wouldn't have one. She took one look at him and could hear the strange grunting noise he was making and his weak cry and ran to the phone to call the ambulance. The ambulance crew were calm and said it was probably croup and gave George an oxygen mask to help him breathe, but we were still “blue lighted” to James Cook Hospital and from A&E taken to the paediatric ward. My husband arrived shortly afterwards and it was about this time that the doctor told us he suspected meningitis.
The staff worked quickly to diagnose and treat the disease and performed a lumbar puncture on our baby. In a split second our lives fell apart as we were told that we could lose him. My brother, who lived in Canada and had never seen his nephew, dropped everything to be with us.
We hoped and prayed like never before and for three weeks our little one fought and fought. He had a seizure and other setbacks along the way but he won. In our eyes we are the luckiest family alive.
This is a form of meningitis that is often misdiagnosed and takes lives so indiscriminately. Its progression can be slower than other forms and its symptoms initially more subtle but we have to publicise it more. A health visitor, weeks later, had the cheek to query the diagnosis because George hadn't had a rash. We need to educate people, if we are going to save lives, on the other, very real, symptoms of this deadly illness. We have our little boy here to cuddle and kiss every night but my heart breaks for all the families out there who are not so fortunate.
I’d seen leaflets for the Foundation in the doctor’s surgery and they have helped with support and answers to questions we needed answering. They informed us about the pneumococcal vaccine that, at the time, wasn’t part of the standard vaccine programme but which I went on to fight for our son to have. We wouldn’t have got through that difficult time without the support of the Foundation, the hospital staff and our family.
George was kept under the care of a consultant for a few years as they monitored his progress and development and we are blessed that he has made a fully recovery, which astounded the hospital staff. I still have flashbacks and anger within me about our ignorance and what he went through, but they serve as a reminder for how lucky we are and I can’t let go of them.