Meningitis in your words

Gemma Baxter's story

  • Location: Scotland
  • Categories: Group B meningococcal (MenB)
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Child
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Learning difficulties
Gemma Baxter
Gemma Baxter talks of the worst two weeks of her life when her son, Matthew, contracted meningococcal Group B meningitis at the age of 13 months.

Tuesday the 6th of July 2010 is a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life. My mum, sister and I had taken my two little ones shopping in Livingstone, and had a lovely day out, lunch etc then we came home. My daughter Hannah had just had her pre nursery immunisations so I had gotten both kids a wee sweetie at the shop. 

We got home at about 4pm and I made a coffee for me and mum and settled the kids down and gave them their sweet. That was when I noticed that Matthew was trembling quite violently and he had a very high temperature so I gave him some Calpol. I knew he was ill because he didn’t touch his Milky Way (not like him at all, he eats anything and everything!). I thought nothing more of it, he was very clingy and I attributed this to him coming down with something, and was more than happy to give him all the cuddles that he needed. 

At about 6pm he was sick, again I attributed this to him coming down with something or his temperature, and thought maybe it was just a tummy bug, or something he had eaten at lunch, so put him down to bed at 7pm as normal. At about 8pm he was sick again so I gave him more Calpol as he was still very hot, and cosied him up on the couch beside us. He was very fretful in his sleep and I remember talking to my fiance about calling NHS 24. 

About an hour and a half later Matthew woke up screaming and was trying to be sick. I picked him up, held him to comfort him and that was when he collapsed in my arms. He went totally floppy and I remember screaming to my fiance Thomas to call an ambulance as he was having difficulty breathing and his lips were turning blue. The ambulance crew were with us within ten minutes and my gorgeous little boy was rushed to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy. Even in the ambulance I was thinking, it’s maybe just the fever making him sick, they might just give him something to control that and then we can come home. 

He was admitted into A&E at around 10pmwhere they immediately put a cannula in his arm and started to administer antibiotics. Whilst I was holding him for them to put the cannula in I noticed a couple of tiny pin prick like marks on his upper chest and pointed it out to the doctor. It was at this point he advised that he suspected meningitis. I can’t remember ever feeling as devastated as I did at that point, I couldn’t help imagining the worst but that was quickly overcome by the need to be strong for Matthew. I knew he needed me more than anyone ever had before. 

His temperature was 39.9 when he was admitted and his heart rate was 208 when it should only have been about 120. We were transferred to the ward and they tried using bolus fluid to try and stabilise his blood pressure and the doctor advised they were considering sending him to Sick Kids in Edinburgh to go into intensive care. He must have heard him because on day three he started to pick up, he was sitting up, and drinking a little bit, he even managed a smile when daddy and big sister Hannah came in to visit. 

I can’t describe how I felt when he was at his illest because I honestly can’t remember, all I can remember is the worry and the anguish and praying that he was going to be alright. 

They took what seemed like a million samples of blood, he had a cannula in his foot and in his arm for his IV antibiotics and his fluids, he was hooked up to an ECG and his blood pressure was being automatically taken by a machine every 15 minutes. It was confirmed that he had meningococcal septicaemia on the 8th of July, but by this point I was able to reason that he had two days on the antibiotics and was doing relatively well. He developed more little pin prick marks all over his body and at one point it was as if everytime you looked at him he had more, but they didn’t develop into the bruise- like rash you know to look out for. 

On the 11th of July (my birthday) Matthew was well enough to be discharged but we had to go back to the hospital with him every day for a week for his antibiotics to be administered. My little boy was so brave and the doctors think that he may have mild hearing loss, which hasn’t yet been confirmed, they still want to run more tests. 

I know how lucky we are and I know that not all families are as lucky as we have been and I thank God everyday for sparing our gorgeous little boy, I honestly can’t imagine a world without his little smiling face or his amazing little giggle. He is now 15 months old and only seven weeks later is looking amazingly well, you wouldn’t think there had ever been anything the matter with him. We love you darling boy!

Gemma Lessels
September 2010