Meningitis in your words

Emma Harding's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Co-ordination problems
Emma Harding

My daughter, Emma, contracted pneumococcal meningitis when she was 15 months old. 

She was running around, happy and playing at 5pm. By 6pm she became grizzly. I thought it was teething or tiredness, so I bathed her early and put her to bed. She wouldn't settle. By 8pm she was really irritable and screaming unless held. I gave her Calpol, but after an hour, she still wasn't settling, so I gave her Ibuprofen. This helped and she eventually fell asleep. 

At exactly midnight, Emma woke, projectile vomiting and crying. She was prone to vomiting and because she settled when held I wasn't too concerned. She continued to vomit on and off until 4.30am and then fell asleep. 

"I became frightened and concerned and called the GP."

At 8am I got her up as she was awake. She looked pale but seemed alert. I offered her breakfast but she kept saying 'nah', both to food and milk. She eventually took a couple of sips but then asked for 'wa wa' (water). I gave her some but she immediately vomited - in a way I had never seen before. I became frightened and concerned and called the GP. He prescribed Dioralyte, told me to keep an eye on her and should she deteriorate, take her straight in. 

By 11am she was worse - she was lethargic, floppy, jerking and her eyes were rolling. I called the GP again but he was unavailable so I asked for an urgent house call. The on-call doctor called me and said he wouldn't make a house visit but I could take her to the surgery for 1pm. By that time she was very light sensitive, seemed in pain when picked up or held, was still jerking and had gone very floppy.  The GP did not even undress her to take a look. He attempted to look in her ear, said it was a little red, diagnosed an ear infection, prescribed antibiotics, and told me she would be 'up and running around by tomorrow lunchtime'. 

Emma stopped drinking at 5pm and was permanently moaning, but because I didn't want to be the nagging mother and knew she had been seen by a GP I put all my faith and trust in him, despite every bone in my body telling me otherwise, and put her to bed. 

The following morning, Emma's eyes were like pin pricks, she was jerking and when I lifted her she was stiff. I called my GP immediately who advised me to go straight to the hospital.

Following a lumbar puncture, CT scan, blood tests and X-rays, Emma was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis.

She had numerous seizures whilst in hospital and the amount of anticonvulsants they had to administer to control them made her slip into a coma for almost three months.

Within those three months she had to endure daily blood tests and cannulas, eventually resulting in a long line being inserted in her head as they ran out of veins. She had numerous MRI and CT scans and several lumbar punctures. She developed hydrocephalus for which she had to have a VP shunt fitted; that immediately failed and resulted in her being transferred to yet another hospital for a revision.

Her prognosis on leaving, three and a half months later, was 'wait and see but it doesn't look good'. 

Emma had no vision, hearing, mobility or the ability to sit up or feed herself. She was in a vegetative newborn state.

Now, three years on and following continuous appointments and rehabilitation Emma can see, she can hear with a cochlear implant, is learning to jump on her own and can feed herself. She has epilepsy, hydrocephalus, autistic tendencies, is light and touch-sensitive, profoundly deaf and has global developmental delay where she is currently functioning as a two year old (she is five).

I relive the experience every single day and every time I look at her the memories come flooding back, but she's my little miracle and a real fighter. She has been an inspiration to everyone who is close to her and we remain positive and strong every day to help her on her way to recovery. She will never be the little girl I knew, but she is still my little girl and I love her more than anything in the entire world.

Natasha Harding
March 2009