Group B Strep meningitis
9th July 1997 - Jemma was born, nine days early. On the 18th July we were due to take her out for the first time to see her grandparents. That morning Jemma started to refuse feeds, wanting to sleep a lot more than usual.
I telephoned the midwife to ask for advice; she suggested that I give her a bath to try to wake her up a bit. This did not work so a midwife was sent round to see us. After giving her a check over she telephoned a doctor as Jemma was not responding well, she thought she was dehydrated after not taking fluids for a while. Within 30 minutes the doctor arrived and was soon sending us up to the Children's Ward at Colchester General Hospital for observation and treatment for dehydration.
At the hospital we were taken to a side room and told that they would have to take Jemma away to put a drip in to get fluids into her, but they told us they didn't think there was any major problem. We were told to go and get a coffee and come back in a short while.
We returned to find her not in the room and on asking were taken to another room and told that while inserting the drip she had "gone downhill quickly" and that on performing a lumbar puncture, to which she did not even flinch, they believed that she may have meningitis. They might just as well of said that she had cancer, the shock was immense. Just the word meningitis to us meant death. We would not know the results of the test for a while but she was given antibiotic treatment immediately, put in an incubator, connected to machines that we didn't even know existed, clicking and bleeping and had round-the-clock nursing care. We were unable to hold her or feed her and felt totally lost, helpless and alone.
We were told that the first 24 to 48 hours would be crucial and that we should go home. Yeah right!
What should have been a day to show our first born off to family and friends had turned into a nightmare, and friends and family were at the bedside, or on the other end of the telephone, waiting for news.
After a few agonising days and nights the diagnosis was confirmed as strep B meningitis and septicaemia - something that we hadn't ever heard of. To be told some time later that it could have been avoided with simple screening and treatment of me was unbelievable to us.
After five days, which felt like five weeks, she was taken out of the incubator, as she was responding well to treatment, and put into a cot, although still attached to a drip. It felt amazing to be able to hold her and feed her again. During this time she was given a brain scan and it was confirmed there was no brain damage and we were referred to outpatients for hearing tests at a later date.
Jemma was discharged after 10 days and we took her home for a second time, which felt like the first all over again.
Three years later we were expecting another baby and not wanting to go through the same thing a second time we contacted the Meningitis Research Foundation for advice.
Since then myself and my husband have done various newspaper articles and taken part in the Foundation's Befriending scheme.
Over the following months and years Jemma has had various tests and passed them all with flying colours. She is now a healthy, sporty and intelligent 11-year-old.
Looking back Jemma had a lot of the symptoms of meningitis, and a mother's instinct is nearly always right.