Meningitis in your words

Holly Pace's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: GAS (Group A streptococcal)
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Co-ordination problems
Holly Pace

Holly was four weeks old to the day on 29th January 1988, the date imprinted on my mind.

Norman and I were in Safeway doing the weekly shopping.  Holly started to cry as soon as we walked into the shop and her cries became shriller the longer we were there.  We realise now that the fluorescent lights must have been causing her agony.  After a few minutes, I decided to wait in the car for Norman and try to feed Holly.  She fed OK, but then threw up everything almost immediately.  After that she refused to feed at all and started to run a temperature.

We went home and called out our GP, who arrived within 10 minutes.  She said she wasn't sure exactly what was wrong, but that there was obviously something serious and we should go to casualty.  By the time we reached Queen Mary's in Sidcup, Holly's fontanelle was bulging and she was floppy and unresponsive.  The paediatric registrar did a lumbar puncture and by midnight we had the diagnosis confirmed - Streptococcal A meningitis.

Holly was extremely poorly for a couple of days, surrounded by the paraphernalia of serious illness - drips, tubes, incubator and most of all, doctors and nurses.  We were asked on several occasions if we wanted to have her baptised by the hospital chaplain.  She had massive fits and stopped breathing, her skin turned blue and we feared the worst.  However, she's a fighter and after day three she seemed to be starting to pick up.  Unfortunately, this improvement didn't last and a week after she'd first gone into hospital, Holly was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

"I think that day was one of my worst. "

In an ambulance with 'blues and twos' we sped up to central London and were taken into the neurosurgical ward.  My diary for that day says: "Awful place, like a Victorian prison, with not enough room in the ward to swing a cat."  I think that day was one of my worst.  Holly's eyes were fixed and staring and her whole body was floppy. 

After more tests, we found that the meningitis had caused an abscess on Holly's brain and she had developed hydrocephalus.  This meant that the fluid bathing her brain and spinal cord was building up and needed to be drained off manually.  These complications meant that Holly was to spend the best part of the next five months in GOSH fighting for her health and, at times, her life.  She was saved by the skills of her consultant surgeon Professor Richard Hayward, the head of the infectious diseases unit Professor Mike Levin, and some very nifty plumbing in her head.

" ... she's gorgeous and we're immensely glad we still have her here with us."

Eventually we took Holly home in the summer.  Our eldest son Liam, who was then eight years old, had been a tower of strength to us for six months and he now deserved and needed some attention.  He'd been shunted around friends and relatives whilst we were at Great Ormond Street and it was a good feeling to be a family in our own home again.

Holly is now 21 years old.  She has physical and some learning disabilities as a result of her meningitis, but she's gorgeous and we're immensely glad we still have her here with us.

Beverley Pace
April 2009