Meningitis in your words

Frank Lambert's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: GBS (Group B streptococcal)
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Frank Lambert

On the 2nd March 2005 our little boy Frank was born.  Having had an easy(ish!) labour, a boy who fed and slept well and was fit and strong, we were feeling very happy that everything was going so well.  However, this all changed very quickly. 

On his seventh night, although he seemed well and had a late night feed, he was unusually difficult to settle and seemed to have slightly different breathing.  As we were still getting to know him we didn't realise that this was something we should be particularly concerned about. But when I woke at 5am having not been woken by Frank in the night I knew immediately that something was wrong, and that was when the worst day of our lives began, as we looked into the Moses basket and saw a pale, listless and hot little boy.  We went straight to Basildon A&E, and on to the paediatric ward.

"Those few hours were the longest and most indescribably terrifying of our lives."

Various tests (several hours and a lot of worry) later, we were told he probably had meningitis, which was later confirmed to be group B streptococcus meningitis.  This came as a complete shock to us.  He was immediately given antibiotics and anti-fit drugs, but continued to get worse and worse. I especially remember his breathing becoming more and more difficult and his frequent, and then nearly continuous, seizures, until he got so ill that they had to intubate and ventilate him artificially.  

All we could do was sit outside his room desperately waiting and waiting. Those few hours were the longest and most indescribably terrifying of our lives.  Late that night he was transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington.

Oddly enough, this was when we finally relaxed a little, knowing he was out of immediate danger and being looked after by some of the best people in the country.   He was in intensive care for three days and when they felt he was well enough, he was taken off the ventilator and gradually weaned off some of the drugs he'd been having.  

He became more and more alert as the days went by, but it was so hard tell how well he was doing as we had only known him for such a short time before he became ill.  The most moving thing I remember in his early recovery was when I gave him his first short breastfeed (I had been expressing milk and, once he came round, feeding him through a tube).  It was when I really felt that I might get my baby back.

He continued to get better and better and was discharged from St Mary's a week later and then from Basildon Hospital a week after that.  It was wonderful to be at home again (except it was a tip as we'd left in such a hurry!), but also scary to be looking after Frank when he'd been through so much.  We were desperately worried about whether he would have any long-term disabilities, but no one could tell us what to expect, we just had to, and still have to, wait and see.

In May 2005 he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (fluid that accumulates on the brain because it can't drain properly) and has a shunt to fix this.  But every milestone reached and passed and every achievement made fills us with a great pride and pleasure that we have a wonderful, energetic and bright little boy and a profound appreciation that things may have been so very different.  

Dave and Hazel Lambert
March 2009