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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.

Kieran Jasper

Pneumococcal meningitis at 15m

Pneumococcal meningitis

In September 2006 we went through something that most parents dread, having a child seriously ill in hospital with meningitis.

It all started exactly two weeks after Kieran, then aged 15 months, had his MMR vaccine.  When he had the vaccine we were told he could get a bit feverish over the following 14 days or so, so when Kieran got a temperature on the Wednesday while we were having a day out with friends I put it down to a combination of the MMR, being a hot day, and not having had his normal daytime nap.  I gave him Calpol but even then he didn’t really sleep and had a restless night.  

The following day, Thursday, Kieran still had a temperature and was very sleepy – I spoke to the nurse at our GP surgery and she basically said to continue to give him Calpol and Nurofen (alternating), keep and eye on him and let them know if he got any worse.  

On the Friday morning Kieran seemed much brighter, but after lunch he suddenly got very hot again, sat on my lap and hardly moved for an hour or more. I called the nurse again but she was busy.  An hour later (and before the nurse had been able to call me back) I noticed Kieran looked very vacant, had a raging temperature higher than it had been before, and his lips were a bit of a funny colour.  I laid him on the floor and tried to get a response out of him before phoning my husband who was at work and deciding to take Kieran to hospital.  

I took Kieran to Frimley Park Hospital (where he was born and where he was already under the care of a consultant for egg allergy).   The drive there was horrible – late afternoon rush hour on a Friday – it took four times as long as it does normally to get there, and all the while I was looking back at Kieran to make sure he was OK.  

Once we got to Frimley we were seem immediately in the Children’s A&E department.  They asked various questions about Kieran’s general health and what had happened over the previous days, they checked him over, got a urine sample and took blood samples.  At first they suspected they were just dealing with some kind of virus but admitted him overnight to the children’s ward for observation.  I was able to stay with him (though resting on a child size hospital bed was not the most comfortable thing ever).

At 5am on the Saturday morning Kieran started fitting.  I was in a bed next to him and it was one of the scariest moments ever, watching the doctors and nurses trying to help Kieran.  He had another fit around 6.30am.  It was then that they started giving him a cocktail of drugs – diazepam, antibiotics, anti-virals and anti-convulsants, on top of the paracetamol and brufen he’d already been having.  They told me they were treating him for the worst possible scenario, meningitis, even though they still weren’t sure what was making Kieran so ill.  

We were moved into a side room (with a bed for a parent to stay) and when the doctors came round later in the morning they told us they suspected meningitis but the treatment had been started early, so although we would be in hospital for a while they thought the long term prognosis was good.  Kieran slept for the majority of the next 48 hours whilst being pumped full of drugs and we took it in turns to keep constant vigil by his bedside.  

On the Monday morning we saw a different consultant and she arranged for Kieran to have a chest x-ray, a CT scan and a lumbar puncture and more blood tests (she was surprised these hadn’t been done over the weekend).  These confirmed their suspicions – Kieran was suffering from meningitis but was responding well to treatment.  

On the Tuesday the cultures from the various tests confirmed the strain of meningitis and on the Wednesday Kieran’s drugs were changed to a once a day intravenous dose which meant that we could at last come home.  We had to take Kieran back into hospital for an hour or so each morning for the next five days so he could have his daily dose of intravenous medication, but it is amazing how quickly he has bounced back and he seems to have made a 100% recovery.  

Kieran had to have several hearing tests in the months following his illness as hearing can be affected by meningitis, and we are very pleased when just six months after the meningitis we were told they were happy with his hearing and that he wouldn’t need any further tests until he turned four (he passed that hearing test with flying colours).  He has also had two doses of the new pneumococcal vaccine (the type of meningitis he had was pneumococcal) to help prevent a recurrence – the vaccine was being phased in around the time of Kieran’s illness.

It is now five years since Kieran had meningitis and we are pleased that he has come through such a serious illness without any serious consequences.  Kieran was six at the end of May 2011 and is about to move up to Year 2 at school and is above average academically.  He did have to have some speech and language therapy and is a fussy eater, but whether either of these are a consequence of meningitis we will never know.  

This summer I set myself a challenge to raise money for Meningitis Research Foundation – swimming the distance of the London Marathon (26 miles 385yards or 42.195 kilometres) in my local swimming pool in the 16 weeks between Kieran’s sixth birthday (25th May) and the anniversary of his admission to hospital (13th September).  This idea for this challenge came about from having swum a similar challenge (channel distance over 12 weeks) at the time I found I was pregnant with Kieran.  And a challenge it has been, fitting swimming round our busy family life and the busy pool timetable!  But I’ve done it, and it gives us two reasons to celebrate this September!

RACHEL JASPER

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