Meningitis in your words

Harry Woods's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: GBS (Group B streptococcal)
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Harry Woods

September 10th 2009. It was about 6pm on a Thursday evening, and my mobile phone started to ring. "Where are you love?" said my fiance Lisa. "I'm on my way home love" I said, "I'm about five minutes away.”  She seemed to be panicking a little. "It’s Harry, he doesn't seem himself... he's frightening me," she said. "I'm just around the corner love, I'll be right there.” And with that I hung up, and drove home as quickly as I could.

When I pulled into the driveway, Lisa was already opening the front door. She had Harry in her arms. I jumped out of the car and ran over. "What’s the matter with him?" I asked. He was wrapped in his little blue blanket, and he seemed to be very delirious. "He's just not right Lee, he's frightening me," Lisa said. I took him in my arms, and he was very vacant. He'd smile, and then cry. I felt his forehead and he seemed a little warm, so I carried him out into the back garden to cool down, and asked Lisa to call NHS Direct. As soon as we walked outside, he dropped his head onto my shoulder, and started shivering violently. This is when I started to get really concerned. I took him back inside, and noticed that his hands and feet were blue. By this time Lisa had come off the phone to NHS Direct, and told me that a nurse was going to ring us back. "Forget it love... phone an ambulance," I said showing her his hands and feet.

"We were simply told to prepare for the worst."

The ambulance arrived within a few minutes, and took Harry and Lisa to the local hospital while I followed on in the car. We arrived at the hospital, and waited for what seemed like forever to be seen. Finally, at around midnight, we were seen by a doctor. Harry seemed to have improved at this point, and the doctor suggested he was probably teething and worked himself up into a frenzy! They give us Calpol and told us to take him home.

We arrived home exhausted, but reassured by what the doctor had told us.. Just as we were about to take Harry out of his car seat, he threw up everywhere... projectile vomit! We thought it strange, but put it down to the fact that he'd not long had a bottle. We cleaned him up, got him changed, took him to bed, and dropped off to sleep.

"Lee, Lee," I turned over to see Lisa holding Harry in her arms. "What’s wrong love?" I asked, still half asleep. "It's Harry, he's got a mark on his head.”. I looked, and he did indeed have a very small mark on the right side of his forehead. How Lisa had seen that in almost complete darkness was beyond me! Lisa passed Harry to me and sprung out of bed. She ran downstairs to get the phone, and ran straight back up, getting dressed as she spoke to NHS Direct. It was just gone 4.30am. Harry looked very pale, and was very very limp. I just couldn’t work out what was causing him to be like this. Lisa came off the phone, "an ambulance is on its way," she said. She was in such a panic... she KNEW something serious was happening! I carried Harry downstairs, just as the ambulance crew knocked on the door. They came rushing into the living room and ‘meningitis’ is the only word I remember being said... I completely went blank. Lisa took Harry from me, and dashed out to the ambulance. I had to stay at home with our other children until I could get someone to come and stay with them.

Finally Lisa's Mum and Dad arrived. Lisa called me and told me to hurry up and get to the hospital. I grabbed my car keys, and left straight away. My head was full of thoughts during the drive up to Whiston Hospital... I was convincing myself that Harry would be fine... "I don’t think meningitis is that bad," I told myself.

I parked the car, and sprinted through the corridors of Whiston, franticly looking for Lisa and Harry. I turned around one corner, and noticed Lisa in tears walking towards me. She was on her way outside to phone me again to see where I was. "Where is he?" I asked. Lisa was just sobbing uncontrollably, and a male nurse come over and said Harry was in a very bad way when he arrived at the hospital.

I thought oh God please no, I thought he was about to tell me Harry was dead. He put his arm around my waist and pulled me into a side cubicle. It was then that I saw Harry, stripped down to his nappy, and wired up to all sorts of drips and machines. I burst into tears. He was white, swollen, and covered from head to toe in red spots. The little spot on the right side of his forehead was now covering one third of his forehead. Nurses and doctors where trying to explain what was happening, but nothing was registering. I ran outside, and threw up. I just couldn't take it... the pain I felt was like nothing I've felt before. I just wanted to run away! Lisa followed me outside, and grabbed me. We hugged, and sobbed uncontrollably on each other’s shoulders. For the next few hours, the doctors worked flat out on Harry... they were magnificent! We were crying out for assurances that he would be OK, but sadly none came... we were simply told to prepare for the worst.

Finally, Harry was stable enough to be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. He was loaded into the ambulance, and we stood and watched as they rushed our baby away. We walked back to the car holding hands, trying to hold it together. We followed on up to Alder Hey.

Upon arrival, we weren’t allowed to see Harry for about half an hour or so, as they were still setting up all of the equipment. Finally a nurse waved us over, and we walked into Harry's little cubicle. We just burst into tears again. He looked so helpless, and weak. The rest of Friday was just a complete blur. All I can remember was being told that the first 24 to 48 hours were critical.

Friday and Saturday passed without much change.... as did Sunday, but finally, on Monday morning, Harry opened his eyes!! We were both overcome with emotion, and for the first time started to feel optimistic. We took turns running outside to phone our family to tell them the good news. It was truly magical.

Slowly, they started to wean Harry off the life support machine. We were so happy, but then we realised we were getting a little complacent. Harry has a fit the following day. We came crashing back to earth with a painful thud! The worry started to set in again. For the next few days Harry settled down again, when finally he was released to the high dependency unit. He spent the next few weeks there, where he was treated for the nasty wounds caused by the septicaemia, amongst other things.

The consultants were absolutely amazed by his recovery. Harry had lost no limbs, and had come through an horrendous battle, seemingly unscathed! He was finally released from Alder Hey in October 2009.

We are so proud of Harry, and are eternally thankful to everyone who helped in his treatment, and recovery. He's our little star! :)

Lee Woods
May 2010