Meningitis in your words

Ryan Coffey's story

  • Location: Scotland
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Young child 3-5
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Ryan Coffey

On the 1st December 2000, my son Ryan, aged 3, contracted meningococcal septicaemia.  Just two weeks previously I had attended a Foundation-run meningitis seminar through work - thank God!  

Ryan was absolutely fine that day, ate his dinner and went to bed as usual at 8pm.  At around midnight I went to check on Ryan as I always did, and found him burning hot. I woke him up to give him Calpol, and he began to be sick all over his bed.  After I had cleanI didn'ed him up and given him Calpol, he went back to sleep in my bed.  But, just two hours later, he was sick and burning again and I knew something wasn't right.  I decided to check Ryan over for any spots and found a small purple blotch beside his genitals.  I remembered at the seminar I had attended, how to carry out the glass test; the blotch didn't fade at all, so I called G-Docs and told the doctor that I thought Ryan had contracted meningitis.  The doctor asked why I was so specific and I told him I had attended a meningitis seminar and knew the signs/symptoms.  The doctor told me to take Ryan straight to A&E and he would call to let them know I was on my way.

I was so calm - Ryan was still being sick and becoming semi-conscious, the blotch was still there, but so were a few more new blotches and some spots had appeared.  I drove Ryan straight to hospital; I must have driven through every red light on the way, but I knew time was of the essence and I didn't care.  

"I didn't know if he would survive, there was nothing I could do."

As we arrived I carried him straight in and the doctors were waiting for us.  One doctor took over straight away - I remember them putting him on a bed and hope I never experience again what I saw.  All of these red spots began appearing on his body like someone was using a red pen in front of my eyes.  The doctor had to insert a drip of antibiotics immediately and even went straight into the original purple blotch beside his genitals.  That was when they asked me to leave the room.

That was when I broke down; my 3-year-old son had meningitis (every parent's worst nightmare) and I didn't know if he would survive, there was nothing more I could do.  I kept thinking to myself, "thank god I attended that seminar, thank god I knew what signs and symptoms to look for".  I prayed Ryan would be okay, he had to be. (Ryan's dad was out of the country on business and my parents were away on vacation, so I was by myself.)

I had to inform everyone that had close contact with Ryan over 48 hours to go to their doctor to have preventative medicine in case they had been infected.  His nursery had already had a case just two weeks before Ryan contracted it, but no-one was given the preventative medicine.

I just wish they had and Ryan would not have contracted it. Ryan was in intensive care for 24 hours and then in high dependency for almost two weeks.  During his time in hospital Ryan underwent several injections a day of antibiotics to fight off the infection.   

Each day got better as Ryan grew stronger and was beginning to be like his old self.  After two weeks in hospital, Ryan was allowed home. What a relief for all of us.  

During the first few weeks at home Ryan was tired easily but went on to make a full recovery.  The doctor from the hospital told me that I had saved his life recognising the symptoms so early on, but had I not attended the seminar at work, I may not have know what I was looking for.

Ryan is now a happy, healthy, lively 12-year-boy who has many friends, and is a fabulous big brother to his three younger brothers and has no lasting effects of the meningitis.  

I joined the Meningitis Research Foundation straight away after Ryan got home from hospital and for years helped raise money for research.  Ryan and I did visit the Edinburgh offices not long after and helped with a television advert for the Foundation.  

Over the last five years, I've gone on to have three more children, twins, now age 5 and a 21 month old (all boys).  When any of my children get ill, I am always aware what to check for and realise how lucky I was when I read other people's stories.    The Foundation, along with my instincts, saved my son's life! 

Claire Coffey
April 2009