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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.

Megan Brooks

Meningococcal disease at 7

Meningococcal disease

On 17 February 2009 our seven-year-old daughter, Megan, was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia.  

Monday 16 February was the first day of the half term holiday.  I had been working, my son, Jack, had been to nursery and Megan had been at her Nanan's.  Megan had been absolutely fine all day - eaten all her meals and had two school friends to play for a few hours.  

I collected Megan from my mum's on my way home from work at about 5.30pm and she was still her usual self.  At approximately 7pm I got her ready for bed and it was at this time that she started with severe shivering, teeth chattering and felt 'a bit off'. Thinking she was coming down with something, and as I felt quite tired also, I went to bed early and took her into bed with me.  

Later that night she woke up and vomited quite severely, however, she then seemed to come round a bit so I put her in the shower and then back in her own bed.  At about 4am she woke up moaning with a temperature, staring at the walls, was unresponsive and was also breathing a little heavier than usual.  I noticed she had a small bruise under her arm but, as at one point I had got hold of her under her arms to pull her further up the bed, I thought that I may have just grabbed hold of her a little too tightly and bruised her.  I also put on the light in her bedroom but she tolerated this.
 
Due to her general state I decided to contact NHS Direct. As I think a lot of us do as parents, when my children are ill and I'm unsure what it is I always check them over and think of meningitis, but never really expect it to be that. Due to there being no rash as such, and her tolerating the light - the main symptoms I personally always thought of in relation to meningitis - I still thought it was probably flu or some other virus.  On describing Megan's symptoms to the lady on the NHS Direct helpline she said that we should get a paramedic to look at her and put us through to the ambulance service.

I went with Megan in the ambulance whilst my husband stayed at home with our son.  I remember being in the ambulance and being really calm and thinking how 'daft' we were going to look with all this fuss when it turned out she only had flu.  

On arrival at hospital everything soon changed.  There was a lot of concern over her temperature which was very high, and then someone opened her top and there was a quite large purple bruise on her stomach. One of the paramedics said he had seen that when we were at home but it had been just a red mark.  The next thing I knew we were surrounded by what seemed to be about a dozen people and she was having lines put in for the antibiotics and other drugs.  I was then told to give her a kiss goodbye as they had to ventilate her.

I was then taken to a room with a member of staff where I waited for them to work on her, and phoned my husband to tell him to come to the hospital.  After what seemed like ages - and by which time my husband had arrived at the hospital - one of the doctors came to see us to say Megan was now in an induced coma in order to allow her body to fight the infection and was on a ventilator with drugs supporting her organs. He informed us that she was very, very sick, that some children don't make it and that the first 12 hours were critical.  We were then taken to see her before they took here up to ICU.  On seeing her, both my husband and I burst into tears - she had so many lines attached and at this stage the rash had now come out and her body, arms and legs were covered in it.  Thankfully, however, she got none on her face, hands or feet.

Once in ICU we sat by her bed, the hospital provided us with a parents' room - not that we used it much.  They informed us that she needed to go on dialysis to support her kidneys.  On the following morning (Wednesday) one of the consultants came to see us and told us she had had a stable night and was doing everything they expected.  

However that afternoon we were told that she was not getting better as quickly as they would expect and it could still go either way - we were devastated.  The doctors then decided to put her on steroids and from that point she started progressing.  It was a very long journey and she was still unconscious for another four days and was then on a ward for a further two weeks.  

She had a few setbacks whilst on the ward - confusion and difficulty with co-ordination for about three/four days after coming round, raised temperatures, rashes and difficulty in walking.  She also got some infection in two lesions for which she required more antibiotics.  These problems resulted in her having further tests - two brain scans, an ultrasound of her heart and lots and lots of blood tests (which didn't go down too well!).

Whilst having assessments by the physiotherapists she was diagnosed with dyspraxia of her fine motor skills. However, we have been told this is probably something that has been there since birth and nothing to do with the meningitis.  

We have been so lucky as Megan appears to have come out of it with no long-lasting effects and it looks like the only physical reminder of her experience will be two scars where her two large lesions were.

We were told by a number of doctors and nurses that she had been very sick and had we not got her there so quickly she probably would not have survived.  My heart goes out to those people who have not been as lucky as us.  This is the reason I have decided to become a member of Meningitis Research Foundation.  I have always been aware of meningitis but until I actually experienced it did not fully appreciate what a terrible disease it is, and how quickly it strikes.  I feel it is so important for people to be aware of all the symptoms.   Let's hope a vaccine is found for Men B soon.

VANESSA BROOKS
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