Meningitis in your words

David Brennan's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Bereavement
David Brennan

David was 22 months old. From the day he was born he changed our lives, he never cried and was always happy no matter where he went, he always had a smile for strangers.

I have read other parents' stories and the children concerned always seem to be very special. Maybe us parents are biased, but I don't think so.

David was only five weeks old when we travelled to Ireland for Christmas. He was so good all day. We flew to Dublin and my father and young brother met us at 8.30am. Unfortunately our car broke down and it was late when we eventually got home. My father said he couldn't believe how good David was. Once he was fed and in Joe's or my arms he was quite happy.

September 7th 1990 changed our lives once more. David left us as quietly as he had come to us.

We spent three weeks in Ireland. They were three wonderful weeks, all our family live in Ireland so we were busy visiting everyone; relatives and friends who had never seen David.

I was five months pregnant with our second child so I was taking a break. The baby was due at Christmas and things would be hectic. We flew back from Ireland on Monday 3rd September. We went shopping on Tuesday and bought him a little ride along toy which he insisted on riding all the way home. On Wednesday we went to Guy's Hospital for my ante-natal check-up and then David and I went home and Joe went back to work.

t was then things went tragically wrong. I put him to bed and his breathing was very heavy. I brought him down and he was sick; he lay down on the couch with me and when Joe came home we took him to the doctor. He gave us antibiotics and told us to give him plenty of fluids but not milk.  We put him to bed and went with him; he slept fitfully and was sick twice. I turned on the main light and it was then I saw these purple blotches. Joe rang the emergency doctor and while we were waiting David was sick again and kept going from one to the other of us. I remember putting him in a standing position for a minute and his legs gave way. I was very frightened and said to Joe 'meningitis' but didn't think any more about it.

The doctor arrived and he immediately called an ambulance. He didn't tell us much but we knew it was serious. While we were waiting I packed a bag for David with all the things he would need  - but it turned out he didn't need anything. He was still wanting to go from one to the other of us and he pointed to the fridge for some milk. He loved his milk so even though we knew the milk would upset his tummy he wanted it so badly we gave it to him. He smiled - it was the last thing we were able to give him and we were glad we did.

We arrived at the hospital at around 5.30am - we had lost all track of time. The doctor at Guy's knew what it was, I asked him was David going to die, and he said he would give him a fighting chance, 50/50 as he still knew who we were. We were stunned, all sorts of things were running through our heads.

They took him to intensive care and put him on a ventilator. He never opened his eyes again. It was horrific, looking at him with tubes everywhere and this purple rash all over. The only thing that was the same about him was his beautiful blond hair. The doctor and nurses did everything they could. We were allowed in to see him and Joe kept touching him and talking to him. I couldn't stay in the room, it was so painful to watch Joe with him and to see him like that.

We eventually phoned Ireland to tell them the news - they couldn't believe it was so bad. I can only imagine what it was like for our families, not knowing and waiting. I remember walking down the corridor to use the phone and looking out of the window. We were in the tower block and I thought I could throw myself out of this window if he dies, and Joe's thoughts were the same.

We knew it was time to let go. We looked at one another and said "turn off the machines".

My brother Phil flew over from Ireland on Thursday evening to be with us and Joe's sister came on Friday, by which time David had died. We were in the room, Joe and I, and at 1.30am the nurse walked in. We knew what she was going to say. The specialist said he would probably live until morning but the result would be the same. He didn't say it, but we knew it was time to let go. We just looked at one another and said ""turn off the machines"". He died at  2.20am.

The nurses dressed him in the new pyjamas I had only just bought for him, I picked him up and although I could hold him close and cuddle him, he was stiff from the drugs and that was really painful. He looked so lovely and peaceful. There was a golden glow in his hair. It was the last time we saw him.

Joe said when David was ill he didn't care what way he was, he just wanted him to live. He said he would care for him, and he would have, he had the strength and courage to do it, but I knew I couldn't. I wanted him the way he was.

We had only just come back from Ireland and we flew David home on Sunday, September 9th. The whole parish turned out for his funeral. It was a shock for everyone to think that a child who they had only seen a week ago could have got so ill and be burying him a week later. The family said he came home to say goodbye and he had two lovely days with us before he died.

Before he died, one relative, who hadn't seen David before that summer, described him as quaint, and another as angelic. On the flight home we were told the passengers were privileged to fly with an angel and that is what he is, an angel watching out for us.

We stayed in Ireland until our second child was born. We hadn't thought much about the baby in the months that followed, but as the time got closer I began to feel afraid that something would go wrong. Joseph was born on December 26th. It was a very emotional time for everyone. We were glad he was a little boy, he is our saviour.

We were afraid at first that every time he got sick it would be fatal, but we gradually felt better.

He will never replace David, but he has filled a great black hole.