Meningitis in your words

Ian Alexander's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Ian Alexander

I came into this world at 1300 on Sunday 17th September 1961. I was born 70 stairs up in a block of flats in Westbourne Terrace. I was born two weeks early but obviously I wanted to make my entrance, so I did. My parents had another three boys and one girl, but little did they realise the trouble I was going to cause them.

At the age of 6 weeks I had my six weekly check up at the Doctor and passed with flying colours. Little did anyone realise what was going to happen in a short couple of weeks. At two months I wasn't very well and my mother took me to the Doctors in the morning. The Doctor examined me and said that I had a heavy cold/flu and to take me back home and give me children's Anadin. I was not a very well baby and my mother took me back to the Doctors in the afternoon. The Doctor confirmed the diagnosis. That evening the Doctor on duty was called out. He was a younger Doctor, maybe just out of Medical School but he suspected a disease called Meningitis. He said that I should go down to the hospital to confirm this, My parents were going to take me on the bus as neither of them drove. The Doctor said “No, we're going to take him by Ambulance”. I was blue lighted from there to Charing Cross Hospital in London.

"Many years later he told my parents that he fully expected me to be dead that night."

When I got to the Hospital I was rushed into A + E and had all the tests done to confirm Meningitis. I was transferred to the Paediatric Ward. I had quite a brilliant Paediatrician to treat me. When he first saw me he asked my parents if they were religious. They were Salvationists and he advised them to contact the Officers in Charge to read me my last rights. Obviously my parents were most upset with the prospect of losing one of their children but I was being pumped with drugs to hopefully keep me alive.

The following morning the Consultant was doing his rounds and asked one of the nurses who was bawling the place down. Back came the reply - “It's baby Alexander.” Many years later he told my parents that he fully expected me to be dead that night.

When my parents came in to visit me the Consultant asked if he could have a word. My parents followed him into a Consulting Room for privacy.

“It has been confirmed that your son has Meningitis,” the Consultant said. “Just so you know Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It's a potentially deadly but rare disease.”

“What are his chances of living Doctor?” My Mother asked in total shock.

“The fact that he's alive now is a good sign but it's going to be a long process. The next 72 hours are critical and if he survives he could survive this episode. That's the good news.” The Consultant said. “Unfortunately, the best case scenario would be that he will suffer disability all his life, he would be on medication all his life, he would need 24 hours a day 7 days a week care, he will never walk or talk, he wouldn't be able to do much for himself and he'll have to go to a Special Needs School.”

My parents were shocked. They didn't realise how bad Meningitis could be for the person who has it or indeed the friends and family of the person who is ill with the disease. The fact that I was a baby and hadn't built up antibodies to anything yet left me susceptible to illness and this in turn left me with a huge chance of dying from Meningitis. The antibiotics were administered and all my parents could do was hope and pray that I would make a recovery of some sort. My parents were shocked but thankful that I was in the best possible place to make a recovery from this terrible disease. The next 72 hours I had a fight on my hands that if I lost I wouldn't have been here to write this.

I survived those first 72 hours and grew stronger. I was in hospital for a total of nine months with Meningitis and not being one to do things by halves I was diagnosed with Encephalitis a few days before I was going home. The Consultant wouldn't discharge me so I spent some more time in hospital.

I was in hospital for nine months but made a full recovery from Meningitis and contracted Encephalitis which kept me in hospital a further nine months.

Ian Alexander
February 2021

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