Meningitis in your words

Josh Pope's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Josh Pope

Josh was ten months old when he was baptised along with two of his cousins; all family and friends were invited and we had a small party afterwards.

Two days later, on the Tuesday evening, he became unwell, nothing out of the ordinary, just a high temperature and he was very grizzly. I thought maybe he had a virus so I gave him some paracetamol and kept an eye on him.

The next morning Josh woke at 6.30am. I took him downstairs to prepare his bottle. When I took a closer look Josh had a rash; by now I was thinking he had measles. The one thing that caused me most concern was he didn’t follow me into the kitchen as he always did. Josh was a very clingy baby and was always clinging to my leg or perched on my hip wherever I went, but on this occasion he hadn’t moved. That was when alarm bells rang and I rushed back into the front room. Josh was lying on the blanket where I left him, his body was listless and the rash was spreading before my very eyes.

"The doctor turned up in no time at all and she drove us to the hospital herself"

I rang our GP, Dr Kenney, and she asked me what Josh’s symptoms were and then she told me to do the tumbler test, which I did and the rash stayed. At hearing this my doctor said she would come straight round. I called up to Josh’s dad and told him the doctor was on her way and it was likely Josh had meningitis; he went as white as a sheet.

The doctor turned up in no time at all and she drove us to the hospital herself. She was taking no chances at all. Luckily the hospital is five minutes from where we live. Josh’s dad stayed at home to look after our four-year-old daughter Jess.

At the hospital the doctors were waiting for us because Dr Kenney had rung ahead. They took Josh from me and lay him on the bed. They were asking me lots of questions about how long he had been ill and they needed to know his weight so they could work out how much medication to give him. By now Josh had been ill for 13 hours. None of it seemed real to me, it felt like I was watching this and it was happening to someone else. Once they had all the information they needed the doctors began putting drips into Josh. By this time my head was spinning. I remember asking if Josh was going  to be OK. The doctor looked me in the eye and told me that Josh was very sick and the next 24 hours were crucial.

A couple of hours later the people  from infection control came to talk to me – they needed to know the names and numbers of people who had been in contact with Josh in the last 48 hours so they could be given a one-off dose of antibiotics as a prevention. As Josh had been baptised two days earlier it turned into chaos; our local health centre ran out of the antibiotics because so many people turned up.

The next 24 hours were the longest of my life. He received round the clock care – the doctors and nurses were fantastic. I was able to stay with him and Josh’s dad stayed home to look after Jess and would come to see us every day, as did my sister Ness who made sure our every need was catered for. Other family and friends came too, but were not allowed into the room where he was.

Amazingly Josh started to respond to his treatment immediately. The doctors were amazed at this but warned us that if our beautiful baby boy did survive it was very likely he would have severe brain damage and may even lose limbs because of the septicaemia.

As the days went by and Josh became stronger, the doctors did a lumbar puncture even though they were sure it was meningitis. A lumbar puncture gives an accurate diagnosis of the disease and it proved that Josh did have it.

The doctors and nurses were very excited about the recovery Josh was making. He needed more tests to show the extent of the damage caused by the disease and to everyone’s astonishment there was none. A week after Josh was admitted to hospital we were walking back out with him bouncing in my arms. That has to be undoubtedly the best day of my life.

Josh is now 15 and just like any other teenager. When I look at him sometimes I remind myself that we must be the luckiest people alive for him to have come through this with no side effects. I think he’s our little miracle.

Josh’s survival is a result of Dr Kenney’s quickness at getting us to the hospital, the fantastic work done by the doctors and nurses at Southmead Hospital and the ongoing work Meningitis Research Foundation do. A very big thank you to all of you.

Melanie McHugh
February 2010