Meningitis in your words

Ruairí Smart's story

  • Location: Ireland
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Ruairí Smart

My son Ruairí was born a healthy child by caesarean in Wexford General Hospital on 1 May 2012. My husband Rob and I were thrilled and felt very much gifted as I was an older mum at 45 years of age. Our other little boy Micheál at four years of age was also delighted with the new arrival.

Ruairí was a big bubbly baby who had gorgeous sparkly eyes and was growing to have a big appetite. In November 2012, I put him into a crèche so that I could go back to work and he settled into the crèche immediately and loved being with the other babies.

On the afternoon of 22 November 2012 however I got a call from the crèche to say that Ruairí had not been that fussed about his lunch and as we were due to travel to the UK the next day, I decided to take Ruairí to the doctor and we were seen straight away. I was also conscious of the fact that Micheál had had chicken pox two weeks before so the local doctor felt it would be best if I took Ruairí to the A&E at Wexford General and again Ruairí was seen immediately and was started on IV fluids and anti-bacterial and anti-viral drugs as routine. But the bloods and CT scan ordered by the paediatrican were clear. 

"Over the course of very few hours my little boy’s breathing became very laboured and I was told that Ruairí would be intubated and to ask Rob to come to the hospital as soon as possible as Ruairí was going to be transferred to Temple Street Children’s University Hospital. At that stage the paediatrician advised that Ruairí might have septicaemia as a result of the chicken pox virus."

We left Wexford General at 1.30am in the hospital and Rob and I followed the ambulance where Ruairí was sedated and accompanied by a team from the Hospital.

On arrival to Temple Street Ruairí was immediately admitted to ICU and we thought we were in safe hands and best get some sleep in the parents’ accommodation. When we got back to the ICU in the morning, Ruairí had not come out of the sedated state and had slipped into a coma. Another CT scan had revealed swelling on his brain and a neurosurgeon came to insert a tiny drill into his tiny skull to alleviate pressure but to no avail.

"Rob and I were soon told that our Ruairí was ‘clinically gone’ but his little chest continued to go up and down with the help of the ventilator."

The ICU staff held our hand every step of the way and told us that Ruairí would continue to be kept alive until we were ready to let him go. A social worker and Chaplain also came to see us and we talked through how to tell Micheál that his little brother was going to die and how to break the news to family and friends but we never felt any pressure.

A friend brought Micheál up to Dublin and when Micheál got to the ICU he climbed into Ruairí’s cot as he did every morning and we sang our songs and chatted away to Ruairí.

Rob and I wanted Ruairí’s departure from this world to be beautiful and peaceful and again the ICU team told us exactly what would happen when the ventilator was turned off and at that moment, one nurse stood in solidarity behind us and her presence was incredibly comforting.

The Chaplain and nurses dressed Ruairí and organised the paperwork and we brought him home that night by car. We however decided against a funeral and instead organised a celebration of his short life in our local church.

As best we could, we explained to Micheál that Ruairí had come from a seed and we were planting him like a seed again and he would grow into a magnificent yellow flower.

Micheál continues to ask endless questions about what happened to his little brother and we continue to explain simply that he died because he was very sick but he just wants us to bring him back.

"Micheál also asks if he is still a big brother and we say that of course he is."

His cause of death was pneumococcal meningitis and Ruairí would not have been protected by vaccination. The paediatrician at Temple Street told us that it went through his brain like wildfire.

My duty now is to look after Rob and Micheál and try and maintain a happy stable family life. But I need to channel negative energy that surfaces into something positive or I would go off the deep end so I have started fundraising for Meningitis Research Foundation to help maintain and develop the information, advice and support services and help fund research into the prevention and treatment of meningitis.

I am also happy to share my story with you and I hope that if you or your loved ones have lost a baby to this devastating disease that you are not alone and find some peace in reading this.

Mags Smart
May 2013