On Christmas Day 2009 (Matthew's first Christmas) at approximately 4am Matthew woke up crying which was very unusual in itself, even at seven months. He was unable to settle himself and was awake until 9am, despite many varied attempts to pacify him.
During Christmas Day he was unsettled, whimpering, cuddly and was vomiting in large quantities. We called NHS Direct at approx 2pm as his temperature was feverishly high and, coupled with the "not himself" symptoms, we were concerned. After this call and various checks it was suggested we give Matthew Calpol and monitor the situation.
The vomiting continued and things did not improve so at 4.30am on Boxing Day I decided that enough was enough and that we should take him to hospital.
Matthew's diagnosis was picked up on the consultant’s ward rounds at approximately 8am as he had a bulging soft spot and was panting. He was rushed into HDU but at this stage we really didn't know what the matter was as up until this point no-one seemed unduly worried. This is when we got really scared because I thought we were going to lose him as his eyes started to roll around when they were trying to put a canula in his hand and had to be given oxygen.
He was linked up to various machines, oxygen, medicines etc and we were stunned when the results came back from the lumbar puncture that he had meningitis. How could this be happening to our gorgeous boy? How would we tell his big sister who was five at the time? Separately both my husband and I thought about the meningitis stories that we'd heard and read about and the outcomes but kept our thoughts to ourselves for the sake of our boy and girl.
As time went on Matthew was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and required antibiotics for two weeks. He was moved into a side room after two days as he was the "wellest" child in HDU and we were able to go home after one week to return daily for the remainder of the antibiotics/follow ups. The relief of hearing that we could go home was overwhelming, I just broke down and sobbed because we had turned the corner which at times I thought was not going to happen, and I had been strong and tried to stay positive.
Matthew is now 23 months old (April 2011) and is on the whole a happy, healthy, funny and gorgeous blond haired, blue eyed boy. He has undergone a hearing test and all was clear. After 16 months he is on the hospital's books as his blood tests suggested a low level of antibodies, which is why it attacked his body. He has been referred to an immunologist now.
This is a happy ending to our story, but it has been a very difficult time for us as a family. We found Christmas 2010 difficult as we were surprised at how raw our memories still are. I think that as time goes on things are better but as parents we now feel more jumpy/edgy in times of illness for both of our children.
My advice would be to anyone irrespective of who or what is to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I'm not sure if it saved our son's life or not but I will always trust my gut instinct and will encourage both our children to trust it.