Meningitis in your words

Freya Barstow's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Child
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Freya Barstow

On the 16th April 2005 we lost our precious 19 month old daughter Freya to pneumococcal meningitis. Freya first became ill on the 4th April 2005 with what I thought was a nasty sickness bug. She was sick violently throughout the night of the 4th and had quite a severe temperature but nothing to make me think there was anything seriously wrong.

The following morning after a sleepless night for us all, I took Freya to our local GP who took her temperature again, which at this point was 40.5. He didn't seem too concerned and after checking her over, gave us suppository paracetamols and sent us home.

Freya slept for most of the day only waking up to be sick. By the evening I was growing increasingly concerned with her continuous vomiting and temperature. Still, at this stage, these were the only symptoms. 

Freya's mother says: "We were taken by ambulance to Winchester hospital where she was seen by a few doctors who all thought the same, urine infection."

Freya was admitted to the children's ward where we spent the night. At this point she had stopped being sick and was having a few sips of Diaralite, good sign we thought... 

The following day we where visited by the paediatric consultant who was slightly concerned by Freya's temperature and drowsiness but said we could go home if she continued to drink. At 2pm it all changed... 

I can remember Freya looking very pale and mottled which obviously concerned one of the nurses as she took one look at her and pressed the emergency buzzer. Just as she did this Freya started fitting, one after another. It took a while for the doctors to stabilise her but eventually the fits stopped. Freya went downhill over the next few days and eventually the decision was made to transfer her to Southampton PICU. I was beside myself with worry and knew that going to the PICU meant Freya was seriously ill.

We arrived at the hospital on the Friday. Freya was on a ventilator and stable but nothing prepared us for seeing our baby attached to all the machines. A brain scan had been done at Winchester which was clear, but after a few days in Southampton another was done as Freya's seizures were getting worse and at this point her kidneys had started to fail. 

"Myself and my husband hadn't slept or eaten properly for over five days and at the time I was 28 weeks pregnant",- says Freya's mother.

The news wasn't good. Freya's brain was swollen and any hopes of having her back the same as she was were gone. She was brain damaged. All we could do was hope that she somehow she would recover enough to have some king of quality of life. This wasn't to be. 

Freya deteriorated day by day and the little girl we knew and loved was fading away. She was beyond recognition. This is when we made the hardest decision of our lives, it was time to let her go. 

Freya was transferred to Naomi House Children's Hospice where the doctors removed her ventilator. We were left alone with our daughter and on Saturday 16th April at around 8pm, seven hours after arriving at Naomi House our beautiful baby girl passed away in her Daddy's arms. 

The death of our only child at the time devastated our whole lives including that of our family. 

"She was the light of our lives and I didn't know how I would live the rest of my life without her."

Eight weeks after Freya died I gave birth to my second daughter Libby Hope. She was our reason for going on and made us smile again. 17 months later our son Fraser was born, who is a spitting image of his big sister! 

We talk about Freya everyday and take the children to Freya's grave a few times a week, where they leave her drawings etc. She is as much a part of their lives as if she were here. 

We will never get over the loss of Freya but four years on day-to-day life is easier to bear. 

I always wonder if Freya would still be here if she was diagnosed earlier, this we will never know. The only thing we know for sure that would have saved her is the vaccination, introduced 18 months after she died.