Meningitis in your words

Dorika Kenedy's story

  • Location: Malawi
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Headaches
Dorika Kenedy

Dorika Kenedy aged seven, from Chileka, Blantyre in Malawi, has had meningitis several times and she still suffers from headaches.

Her mum, Agness, told us what happened to Dorika:

Dorika was 11 months old when she first became ill. It was 3am and she couldn’t sleep and was rolling around the bed and she suddenly just became stiff and had convulsions. We left the house at 4am but there is no public transport at this time so we started walking to Chileka health centre until transport started moving about and then got on a minibus. It took two hours to get to the health facility.

"When Dorika first got sick I thought she had malaria"

When we got to Chileka Health Centre they said they couldn’t deal with the severity of the case so referred Dorika straight away to QECH (Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital).

When we got to QECH they called the doctors from the Malaria Project (research ward) who rushed to see her and did a lumber puncture and took some blood samples. When the results came back she was diagnosed with meningitis and taken back to the research ward to begin treatment. She was transferred to Mangochi ward and hospitalized for three weeks. At first they gave her pills but when they saw there was no improvement they started giving her antibiotics. We stayed in the hospital for three weeks.

My eldest daughter had to look after my other three children and I was very anxious, but, by the grace of God, they were all fine. I was breastfeeding my baby boy when Dorika was ill so had to take him to the hospital with us and he got sick as well. I blamed myself as I thought he wouldn’t of got sick if we weren’t at the hospital but I had no choice as there was no one else to look after him.

After Dorika was discharged from hospital we had to go back to QECH almost every week so they could scan her head to see if the swelling had gone. We did this for a few weeks so Dorika went to stay with her grandma in Thyoloolo which is just outside Blantyre so they could go to hospital every week.

We were told not to go back to primary health clinic if she became sick again but to go straight to QECH because she had already been referred and this could be a recurring problem.

We were at home for two weeks when she became ill again, I was told to wait for an ambulance or use public transport but I decided to get the minibus as it was quicker than waiting for the ambulance. I had to borrow money to get to the hospital. When we got to QECH she was admitted and treated at the hospital for another three weeks.

When Dorika first got sick I thought she had malaria but was told she had meningitis which is a disease that stiffens the neck and affects the brain.

I think I would be able to recognise some of the symptoms of meningitis but not all of them. I have been telling people in the village what to look for and not to wait.

Agness Kenedy
July 2013