Before I begin to write about our experience with this cruel disease, I would like to explain why I am choosing to do this.
I am not trying to attract sympathy. I am not trying to compare our experiences with anyone else's. I am doing this for two reasons. The first is to encourage people to talk about it, and read about it, and most of all look out for it! The second is sort of as a self-care thing. I think it is important to talk about things for yourself as much as anything else.
It was a Friday evening when I really started to notice something didn't seem right with Dahlia, who was 4 weeks old. I had been told for a while that Dahlia had Colic. I didn't doubt that, so on the Friday night when Dahlia wouldn't stop screaming and wouldn't feed properly I put it down to that. It was a long night. She would sleep for ten minutes, then wake and scream for what felt like hours. This all started at about 6:30pm and was still going on when it was time to take Ted to swimming class at 8:30am. I didn't want Ted to miss his class so I bundled the girls up into the double stroller and off we went. However, I was becoming increasingly concerned. Dahlia had felt very warm all night, and although she normally settles well when she is in her stroller this particular Saturday morning walk was a nightmare. Every time we went over the slightest bump, up or down a curb, anything, she would scream even more.
When I was sat in the leisure centre trying to keep the girls entertained for 30 minutes I decided to have a quick Google of Dahlia's symptoms. Meningitis kept popping up, but honestly I didn't think it was. I felt her hands, they were cold. I felt her body, it was hotter than before. The next time I changed her nappy I had noticed that her skin had become mottled all over her body.
When we got back I called NHS direct. Honestly I just wanted some advice because she was so little that I couldn't give her anything to bring her temp down (which was now 38.6). I expected to be told to call my GP and ask for an emergency appointment. They asked me generic screening questions. I'm not sure we finished the questions before the lady on the phone told me that she was going to speak to someone. When she came back I was made aware that because of some of my answers, and how young she was, she would be sending out an ambulance to check her over.
When the paramedics turned up they didn't seem immediately concerned. They did lots of generic tests and informed me that they would have to take her in to get checked by a doctor because she is under one. She was clearly distressed, but still even at this point there was no mention of, or worry about it being meningitis or anything else serious. The one paramedic thought maybe colic, maybe constipation.
Dahlia settled in the ambulance thankfully. I felt awful having to leave my two other children, who are 6 and 2 (even though they always have an awesome time with their grandparents).
When we arrived at the hospital we were taken in to paediatrics A & E. The wait to be seen was 3 hours! I was anxious, bored and underprepared. Also, reruns of the Chipmunks series playing on the TV behind you gets old very fast.. We were eventually called in.
The doctor took a general look at Dahlia, asked lots of questions, and told me that we had to wait in a waiting area to be checked by his colleague (who was in a higher role than him) as she was under 3 months. At this point I really expected to be going home with my baby within the hour. However this next Doctor wasn't as happy with Dahlia as all of the others had been. She was the first one to recognise that Dahlia had a temperature. She seemed quite concerned with how pale Dahlia now was, and the mottled skin. She wanted to do tests. Blood, urine, lumbar puncture. I naively asked if we would be going home tonight. No.