It was then that they said that word that no one wants to hear, “we suspect your son has meningitis”. They told me then that he would need to get rushed to the Bristol Children’s Hospital where he will receive specialist treatment. Obviously at this point my life became a bit blurry. The nurses called my parents who lived locally, who came over and tried to comfort me. My concern was that at this point his Dad was in the air on route to the USA and someone needed to get him back now. I had no idea what was going to happen.
Within an hour there was an emergency team from the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Bristol’s Children’s Hospital in Gloucester; one consultant, two nurses and three paramedics. They had to stabilise Oscar and put him on life support before moving him, which took another 2 hours. They then blue lighted him to Bristol with me following in the other paramedic's car.
We arrived at PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) at 9pm where I was informed that my son was not doing too well and that the disease was very virulent. They took me to him, where he was now hooked up to a heart monitor, breathing machine, 4 IV drugs to maintain his bodily organs. He had also swelled in size and now the rash that you are told about had started to appear. All I could do was sit by his bed, cry and hold his hand and wait. He had a lumbar puncture performed to diagnose the strain, it was pneumococcal septicaemia.
Oscar had a specialist nurse with him 24 hours a day on a rotation of 12 hour shifts. He had a consultant see him every hour, ensuring his condition was not deteriorating. The next morning his kidneys started to give way and he was put onto continuous dialysis as his body went into organ failure. His Dad turned up just as he was being hooked up; he had landed and jumped on the first flight back.
Throughout the course of his treatment Oscar was subjected to 3 x-rays every day, two heart scans, daily visits from a cardiologist, a daily visit from a surgeon keeping an eye on the swelling in his abdomen, a twice daily visit from a physiotherapist and a daily visit from a nutritionist. There was not a moment when he was unobserved.
In the second week he started to turn a corner and he was fighting back. As his condition improved they decided to take him off some of the drugs he had been on to start waking him up. As he did he looked weird, his eyes were not responding and they thought he may have brain damage. He was taken by 4 staff to have a MRI to see if any brain function had been compromised. Luckily the result came back as negative and after a few hours he started to react normally to external stimuli. The reaction had been due to withdrawal symptoms from taking him off the drugs he had come to depend on.
By the end of the second week I had my first cuddle with my little boy, who up until then all I could do was sit by his bedside day and night. The staff were amazing, as well as looking after my son they made sure I ate and had drinks; put me up in some accommodation on site so I could sleep the few hours a night that I needed to stay focused. They kept me sane as best they could and let me get involved in his day to day care. I became a dab hand at reading out important figures for their records and aiding in his daily washes.
The night he was released from PICU and sent to a ward, the care continued. I had a pull down bed next to his cot so I could stay with him. The next day he was allowed home to continue his recovery. But the hospital’s care did not stop there.
Oscar had appointments twice a week with consultants checking his heart and his recovery. He was also at this stage appointed a plastic surgeon as the rash that had occurred had killed his skin on his thighs and arms, and was also going to lose two finger tips. We saw this surgeon and specialist nurses, who dressed his wounds, twice a week and taught me how to look after them at home and redress them if needed.
The care just never stopped and the help available to me was just inspiring.