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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.

Theo Kirwin

Pneumococcal meningitis at 4 months

Pneumococcal meningitis

Theo our second son, was born in 2004 before the pneumococcal jab came in. When he came along he was the most laid back baby, in contrast to his big brother Arrans' manic energy.

When he was four months old he had an upper respiratory tract infection just before he had his second set of jabs. Two days after the jabs he developed a temperature which didn't respond to Calpol and was crying really miserably, which worried me as it was out of character. I called NHS Direct and they sent us to the out of hours GP. I gave him a tepid bath and by the time the doctor saw him, had managed to get his temperature down, although he was still very miserable. I explained to the doctor that he just wasn't right, but she thought it was just a virus. I remember her checking him over and saying "there's no rash, thank God". I knew that this meant she had ruled out meningitis.

Later that evening he started to vomit and we rang the GP out of hours service again. They told us it was quite normal and to ring again if he was still bad in the morning. I spent that night with Theo in bed with me. He would sleep for a while and then wake up screaming and waving his hands in front of his face.

The next morning he had taken no milk and his nappy was dry; so we rang the GP out of hours service again. They told us to try and get some fluid down him and they rang back two hours later. They seemed happy that he had taken about 20ml of water (he was breast fed) and told me to just wait it out and that he would get better. I didn't feel right about this but I waited.

By the next morning he was making a strange cry and I rang my own GP. I couldn't get an appointment until the afternoon. Even though I knew something was very wrong the first doctor had ruled out meningitis in my mind. That afternoon my GP took one look at Theo and told me to take him to hospital.  It all seemed completely unreal. I still didn't panic because I had been told there was no rash so it wasn't meningitis.

By the time I reached the ward 20 minutes later, Theo was grey and unresponsive. He was given a lumbar puncture and given broad spectrum antibiotics. The doctor told me he had pneumococcal meningitis. Later he started to seize and was ventilated.

At 6am we followed the ambulance in a daze to the local PICU. That night we were told that Theo might not make it, but he was strong and he held on.

We spent a week in the PICU during which time he had brain scans. We were told that he had very little brain activity and that his recovery would be unpredictable, he could be anything from the way he was then, seizing regularly and pretty much a vegetable, or might just be deaf with a bit of a limp! So, plenty of room for hope amidst the grief.

Theo was transferred back to our local ward for six weeks. When we finally got him home we couldn't cope and had to send him back on day release! He hated to be touched, threw up whenever we moved him and seemed to have lost his hearing. This was confirmed eight weeks later and he was fast-tracked for cochlea implants at the age of seven months. Another traumatic stay in hospital although this time with a good outcome.

We have spent the last five years balanced between grief and hope for Theo. Life is very hard work but he is finally tolerating his implants and beginning to enjoy hearing. He is unlikely to speak and doesn't walk, although this hasn't been completely ruled out. His development is arrested somewhere between six and 12 months. My baby will never grow up although his body will continue to grow and he should live a long life. He will always need full care and this is very hard work. He is mostly a happy, beautiful soul and loves his wonderful school.

I feel anger and grief most days and have to say that I sometimes feel it would almost have been easier to have lost him altogether. MRF have been wonderfully supportive, letting us know that we are not alone and giving us a safe place to say the un-sayable things. Theo now has a new sister, Naomi who brings us both joy because she is wonderful, and grief because she is already overtaking Theo.

JO KIRWIN
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