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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.

Joseph Dunbar

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Pneumococcal meningitis

How it started
It was the 8th December 2006 and our five month old son Joseph was due to have his third pneumococcal vaccination.  He woke up a bit out of sorts and didn't seem his usual self.  As the morning progressed his temperature rose. 

By lunchtime I knew he was very unwell.  The doctor sent us straight to the hospital where they gave him some paracetamol.  His temperature started to go down and he drank some milk.  Finding nothing obviously wrong they discharged Joseph and said to bring him straight back should he get worse.

In the early hours of the morning he woke up crying and screaming.  We gave him some more paracetamol (although his temperature was only a little raised) and I tried to give him some milk. He immediately threw it all up and continued screaming.  It was at this point that we knew we had to get him straight back to hospital.  My husband John took him and I stayed behind with our daughter.
 
The Diagnosis
At about five o'clock in the morning John phoned and said they thought he had meningitis and had done a lumbar puncture.  They had started him on antibiotics.  I was horrified.  When I got to the hospital Joseph was all wired up.  To watch his tiny frame battling such immense pain was heart-breaking.

The doctor explained they were certain that it was meningitis but did not know which type.  We were told that they did not want it to be bacterial meningitis as it can often cause serious problems.  My heart sank when the doctor returned and I saw his face.  'It's pneumococcal isn't it?' I said. He nodded.  I sank back into the chair and sobbed so hard that I lost all sense of my surroundings.

Joseph's fight had begun.  I sat for hours staring at him and I just wanted to take it all away.  I wondered if I had done anything to cause it.  By the evening they seemed to think he would get through it. Joseph was in the intensive care room for a few days. It was such a relief during the following week when his pain subsided.  The bacteria levels were dropping rapidly and his temperature stabilised. 

During that week one of the nurses asked if I had heard of the Meningitis Research Foundation. I said I hadn't and she got the website up on the computer. I knew I would make contact but didn't feel able to right then.  During this time I began to worry about what the disease was doing to his brain and hearing.  I began standing behind his bed clapping to see if there was any response. 

After about a week the doctor suggested we take Joseph home and bring him in daily for his IV antibiotics, which we did. After about two weeks Joseph was discharged.  It was two days before Christmas and we were all exhausted. 
 
Afterwards
I phoned the MRF in January 2007 and they put us in touch with a befriender.  It was a relief to share experiences.

Joseph then had about three follow-up checks with the paediatrician and continued to have hearing tests.  The audiologist discharged him last summer as it was felt that his hearing had not been damaged.  Joseph can walk, he is learning to talk and appears to respond normally.  It may be that he needs some extra help at school in the future, it's too early to tell, but right now we feel the most fortunate parents in the world to still have him.  We continue to support the MRF.

JANINE DUNBAR

Video clip, copyright GlaxoSmithKline group of companies, 2009
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