Meningitis in your words

James Haisman's story

  • Location: Europe
  • Categories: Escherichia coli (E. Coli)
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Full recovery
James Haisman

On 11 July 1999 my four-month-old son James became seriously ill with meningitis and septicaemia.

Up until that day he had been a very healthy and happy baby and nothing had alerted us to the fact that he would become so seriously ill so quickly.

During the morning of 10 July I remember him crying more than usual, but he didn't seem unwell and was feeding as usual.  Strangely in the early evening James made a peculiar sound like a cat making a high-pitched whine. At the time I thought it an odd sound that I hadn't heard him make before but the thought soon passed. 

The evening passed as usual with James enjoying his tea and his regular evening splash in the bath. 

At just after midnight we were woken by a terrifying high-pitched distressed cry. We were both very concerned and checked him all over looking for a wasp sting or other cause for his distress. I checked his temperature, which was showing as low, and tried to give him Calpol but he bought it back up. He was refusing milk and was moaning and crying intermittently. I sat up with him all night, and he went to sleep for short periods throughout the night. By early morning he seemed asleep but his breathing was very fast and he was making a squeaky noise.

I decided in the morning that he needed to see a doctor. On walking him there in his pram I noticed his expression was 'worried' and he was very grey in colour.  My GP was immediately concerned and arranged for an ambulance to take me to the nearest hospital. She has since told me that she didn't suspect meningitis. While waiting for the ambulance I noticed that his soft spot was bulging quite considerably.

On arrival at hospital we were told by the consultant that he was very poorly and they performed a lumbar puncture to rule out meningitis, but he didn't think this was the cause of James's illness. By the time we came back to the ward James was in an isolation room surrounded by machines and wires and they told us he had bacterial meningitis and septicaemia and he probably had a 50% chance of survival. The shock I felt at that moment was numbing and it affected me deeply. 

"He fought the disease like a true hero. "

James remained on the ward for two weeks. It took them four days to identify the bacteria that had caused his illness as E.coli. He fought the disease like a true hero, and after three weeks of intravenous antibiotics he returned home. We will never know why he contracted this particular strain of the disease, which is rare in his age group. 

There were initial concerns about his hearing but he finally got the all clear at the age of four. His Dad and I found the anxiety following his illness quite difficult at times. The Foundation were a wonderful support and helped hugely. I benefited from the befriender programme in the early days, and have since gone on to befriend others. 

James has grown into a healthy and happy nine-year-old who has some concentration difficulties, but we can't be sure if this was caused by the meningitis or is just 'being James'. We just feel extremely lucky that we still have our wonderful little boy and that he has not been left with more serious after-effects. Thank you MRF for all your support and continuing research into this devastating disease.

Lousie Haisman
May 2009

E. coli
E. coli
This bacteria is an important cause of meningitis in newborn babies and people with medical conditions that put them at increased risk. E.coli is a much greater problem in developing countries.