Meningitis in your words

Thomas Michael Ward's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Thomas Michael Ward

Tommy woke with sickness and temperature. Me and my then partner took him to local hospital where we were given Calpol.

Next morning I wasn’t happy with the Tommy situation – he was extremely tired, had no appetite and was very cross. I took him to the GP where we were told he had gastric flu. A few hours later Tommy was lying on the sofa not himself. He had a temperature, was floppy, very pale crying etc. I rang my dad who came and took us to A&E.

As were we entering the hospital Tommy stopped breathing. I ran and screamed “my son’s not breathing”. He was immediately taken off me and brought into resus. From then on is a blur – I remember him lying on the table unconscious, doctors and nurses running around him putting tubes and needles in. Me, my dad and sister were around him looking at each other in disbelief, especially when the consultant said he suspected meningococcal septicaemia group B. I didn’t know much about it, that’s why I was scared as I didn’t know what to expect.

"Seeing my little baby looking so helpless was awful."

A lady doctor took me, Tommy’s dad, my dad and sister out of the room and told us there was a less than 50% chance Tommy would survive. All I remember is the sick feeling and when I looked round everyone had their heads lowered and Tommy’s dad was holding me up.

Tommy’s dad and I followed the ambulance to the Royal Hospital in Belfast for Sick Children. When we arrived we were taken to a parents’ room. Doctors and nurses kept coming in to update us but I can’t remember anything they said. Eventually we were taken two at a time into the private room where Tommy was. He was laying on a bed, his hands and legs were gently tied to the railings to keep him still when he woke up, he was on life support, his lovely blue eyes were taped shut and wires upon wires were all over his body. He was just in his nappy as his temperature was so high. The nurses wore masks and gloves to prevent infection.

Seeing my little baby looking so helpless was awful. Not seeing him walking, laughing, crawling, with food all over his face was strange – it was like it wasn’t him. I didn’t want to see him like that but couldn’t stop looking at him.

For several nights we stayed at the hospital until the nurses advised us to go home and rest as nothing had changed. The antibiotics were being pumped into his body and were trying to work. Arriving home was strange without going to the backseat of our car to get Tommy. People started coming over to speak to us about Tommy but I couldn’t deal with it and went into the house. Opening the door all I could smell was Tommy, all I could see was his clothes, nappies, food ; it was awful, a lonely cold house without him.

I grabbed a pair of his tiny wee socks and went to bed. I just rocked and cried myself to sleep. I remember waking and jumping out of bed shouting for my partner to wake up to go and see Tommy. I ran into the ward feeling like I hadn’t been in for ages, but all was OK, nothing had changed. Doctors confirmed meningococcal septicaemia group B. The antibiotics were working but they weren’t sure what damage there could be until they took Tommy off sedation. Doctors and nurses tried on a daily basis to remove the life support but Tommy just wasn’t attempting to breathe on his own.

I would read stories to him, rub his wee rosy lips with Vaseline because they were dry, swab the inside of his mouth with water to keep him hydrated, and wipe his eyes with cloths and of course change his wee nappy.

Doctors then told us Tommy had fluid on his lungs, but it didn’t seem that long until he had recovered from that and finally the life machine was taken off and Tommy breathed on his own. I cried with relief – his eyes opened slowly and he tried to cry but he couldn’t because his voice was hoarse from the tube down his throat. But he looked for me and got me. :) He was frustrated as he couldn’t move and when the nurses took the ties off he tried to pull out the wires.

Tommy was transferred to the open ward. He couldn’t sit up or talk properly and would only eat yoghurts and drink juice. Taking him in his pram for walks around the hospital grounds was hard because the sunlight hurt his eyes and he couldn’t sit up to see what was going on.

Doctors informed us Tommy had no side effects – we felt extremely lucky. Not long after we were told we could go home, I was so excited. We put Tommy in the car and all he said was "McDonalds" so we took him and he ate chips and juice lol.

We didn’t tell anyone Tommy was coming home and we arrived at my mum’s. When she opened the door she had tears in her eyes and Tommy just held out his arms to her. He loves his nanny so much, he was so happy. Family and friends visited in their packs to see Tommy – he was spoilt.

He fully recovered and soon after started nursery school right beside where I worked so I could pop in and see him when I wanted. I couldn’t bear to be away from him for long. In 2010 he started primary school, which he loves, and is getting on with his learning very well.

Any assessments Tommy has been to – hearing, eyes and speech – he has passed with flying colours. I am so so grateful to the fast, careful, brilliant care of the staff in Craigavon Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast. Tommy is five now and a happy, kind, caring , funny little boy.

Judith Campbell
October 2011