Meningitis in your words

Isabel Peake's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: GBS (Group B streptococcal)
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Co-ordination problems
Isabel Peake

After a wonderfully unremarkable first pregnancy my waters broke on the evening of 12th March 2003 at 9pm. I wasn't in labour, let alone having contractions, but ended up in hospital first for a check up of baby - who was fine - but because of meconium found in the waters. 

Twelve hours later I was put on a drip to be induced, with an epidural as my labour was not progressing, and another 12 hours later our daughter was born by emergency caesarean after failed attempts with forceps and vonteuse. 

She was a whiney little thing but I just thought that was normal as she seemed to settle if I kept her still and soothed her. I was eternally grateful to the midwife who suggested she took her off me at 2am for a few hours sleep. She was returned to me at 6am, slightly calmer having been given Calpol for a presumed sore head after the forceps and vonteuse. 

Sixteen hours after her birth a paediatrician noticed in her second or third check up that her temperature was rising and she still hadn't stopped whining. We were told it might be an infection. All I could think of was flu. A few hours later we were told it was probable meningitis which could damage her hearing, and handed a leaflet about Group B Strep (GBS). 

She was given antibiotics but her condition deteriorated rapidly. So much so that three days after her birth she had had a couple of major fits, her internal organs were beginning to shut down, and the consultant suggested that we might want to christen her. And we hadn't even got a name for her yet. 

After four days she miraculously turned the corner and began to recover. But the damage was done. A brain scan revealed the infection had caused permanent damage in the parts of brain that control vision and movement. She left hospital at three weeks old with the prognosis of visual problems, problems with movement, and possible intellectual problems. 

Isabel is a bright happy chatty little girl who is a stubborn delight. However, she is blind and has severe cerebral palsy, meaning she has difficulty in co-ordinating all four limbs. At six years of age she cannot roll, sit, crawl, stand, walk, feed herself, or even hold her own toys. 

"To read that I could have been tested for GBS was, and remains, simply devastating."

To read in the leaflet handed to me after her diagnosis in intensive care that not only could I have been tested for GBS in the last month of pregnancy but, as an identified GBS carrier, that intravenous antibiotics during labour - and most notably in prolonged labour like mine - might have reduced the severity or even prevented her infection was, and remains, simply devastating. 

In 2005 and 2008 I gave birth to a girl and then a boy. I tested positive for GBS in both pregnancies but this was managed with IV antibiotics and I gave birth to healthy children.

Leesa Yeo
June 2009

Group B streptococcal (GBS) - A major cause of meningitis in new-born babies