Meningitis in your words

Vanessa Jennings's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Child
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Vanessa Jennings

Hello my name is Barbara Jennings.

MAY 29, 2016 my daughter Vanessa (14) began experiencing severe headaches and nausea. We took her to the ER and the doctor told us she needed to be taken to a children's hospital because he was sure she had meningitis. We went by ambulance to the children's hospital.

The ER doctor refused to listen to our local doctor and refused to do the lumbar puncture. Instead he treated her for migraines and sent her home.

She continued to deteriorate. She could not eat or drink, could not stand lights or noise. I took her to two more doctors and they too treated for migraines.

On June 12th Vanessa became very disoriented and could no longer control her body. She collapsed on our living room floor and was rushed by ambulance to our local hospital. The doctor immediately asked for my permission to sedate her, place her on a ventilator, and do a lumbar puncture. Within an hour we had the diagnosis of pneumococcal meningitis. That began a seven week battle for Vanessa's life.

"I made the decision to remove life support and let my butterfly fly free."

She was transported by ambulance on life support back to the same hospital that just two weeks earlier sent her home. Vanessa had already suffered severe brain injury from the meningitis and lack of medical care. A shunt was placed in her brain to drain the fluid and relieve pressure. She had a g-tube placed to feed her, and a trach placed to allow her to stay on the ventilator long term. She began having what doctors called brain storms which would cause her heart rate to shoot through the roof, spike temps of 106 and her body shake. We we're told the brain damage was devastating. She eventually had a permanent shunt placed. She went through numerous strokes and suspected blindness but that was never confirmed.

"Vanessa put up a very hard fight but after seven weeks her liver and kidneys failed"

On July 28th she had a heart attack and coded. They did a new brain scan and tests on her heart which showed that every area of the brain had been damaged from strokes and there was no longer any activity. Her heart only had a small portion left that was working and her other parts we're shutting down. We watched as she had the heart attack and I saw the life leave my daughter. I knew then that the fight was over and she was already gone.

After meeting with the doctors to discuss the test results. I made the decision no mother should ever have to make. I made the decision to remove life support and let my butterfly fly free. Vanessa passed away several hours later peacefully.

Barbara Jennings
January 2017