My parents collected Amelia, and Elouisa spent the night on a ward in an incubator. However the next morning when the doctor checked her startle reflex, she flopped back, unresponsively. She was immediately moved to the High Dependency Unit and strapped up to various beeping monitors, an IV drip and supported with oxygen. Bundled in her (massive) newborn winter hat and blankets to keep her warm our poor baby looked so tiny. Her 'sats' kept dropping, and as the day wore on doctors became increasingly concerned. Her blood tests revealed she had septicaemia, and doctors started mentioning meningitis, although this couldn't be proved yet as she was far too sick and tiny to undergo a lumbar puncture.
After an emotionally draining Thursday in the HDU, Elouisa took a turn for the worse. The doctor explained there was a possibility she might not make it and suggested we call any family we wanted to let them know the situation. They also wanted to transfer Elouisa to a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, as she was very tiny (they said she was more like a premature baby) and they felt she would be better served elsewhere. They found a bed at St George's in Tooting and we were transferred by the High Dependency Ambulance Team which specialises in intensive care transfers. They explained that if Elouisa stopped breathing during transit they would put me in the front with the driver whilst they resuscitated her. I have never been so scared in all my life was I was during that 10-minute journey.
Elouisa was rushed to PICU that night and the first of many platelet transfusions took place. Wires came out of every limb and our baby was fed by a tube. During her 24-hour stay on PICU a long line was inserted from her ankle to her groin, to enable drugs to be given more effectively. Those 24 hours were touch and go - we were told babies generally go either way.
Luckily Elouisa was progressing, so we were transferred on Friday night (when she was seven days old) to a ward. She spent the next week on the ward, being strapped up to tubes to feed her initially and give her IV antibiotics and platelet transfusions.
On the Sunday I held her for the first time since her admission the previous Thursday and fed her a tiny bottle of milk, which she drained. Her feeding tube was removed and a lumbar puncture was carried out, which showed she was recovering from bacterial meningitis. She was still supported by oxygen, and we had many a worrying moment when the alarms went haywire to indicate a drop in her sats - at least 10 times a day.
I stayed with her the entire time, religiously feeding her every three hours, weighing her nappies and treating her red raw nappy rash which had developed due to all the antibiotics. At this point everything hit me and I spent days in tears, unable to eat. I felt pulled in both directions, as I had barely seen my 19 month old (who I'd never been apart from previously) who was being looked after by our parents. When briefly went home to see her, I was distraught at leaving Elouisa, even though my husband Simon took over from me so she was never alone.
The following Friday, after 10 days in hospital, I begged the doctors to let us home. Elouisa was by now recovered sufficiently that I was doing all her care, with the nurses only giving her the IV antibiotics. An arrangement was reached whereby Simon and I brought her back to St George's each evening for a week for two hour's worth of IV antibiotics. She kept her cannulas in all the time, which were bandaged to ensure they stayed in place.
During our final week in hospital doctors explained that Elouisa could have hearing problems or even brain damage as a result of her meningitis. We had an awful week of waiting for a hearing test - she did okay, not brilliantly on the first one, so was referred for a later distraction test a few months later, which she failed. At this point we were convinced she had a hearing problem - it wasn't until she passed a further test with flying colours that we were finally told she was fine. She also failed to meet a number of milestones at her eight-week check - she was more on par with a four-week-old at this stage. Her first year was a combination of us being elated that we still had our baby and fraught with the worry that she might have some form of brain damage.
Thankfully Elouisa is now a thriving 21-month-old. She is talking, running and a complete joy. St George's were so thrilled (and a little shocked!) by her amazing recovery that they signed her off last year, so she has no more checkups in this respect. Having conducted so much research into the long-term effects of bacterial meningitis I cannot believe how lucky we are to have a seemingly unscathed baby - we will be eternally grateful to all the wonderful doctors and nurses who saved her life, not forgetting the amazing Arezou, our midwife. Had she not sent us to hospital, it is unlikely Elouisa would have survived and we are so grateful to her. She also supported us with phone calls, visits and texts during Elouisa's time in hospital.
After she was discharged we repeatedly asked the doctors why Elouisa had contracted meningitis - was it something we had done? They looked back at their records, both of my antenatal care and the various tests they had carried out on me when Elouisa was first admitted to Kingston. It transpired these suggested I had had Strep B. I had never heard of this before and was never knowingly tested for it during my antenatal care.