It was Tuesday 8th November 2011, a day I will never forget. Working as a childminder with two young children of my own, James aged six and Lucy aged two and a half, my working days were jam packed full of exciting activities. No day was ever the same or ever boring, we had so much fun. This particular Tuesday morning started as every day did with children arriving at our house, having breakfast, then heading up to school to drop the older children off. Lucy, me and one other baby went off to toddler group as normal where we had a great morning. We had then arranged to go for lunch at the Wacky Warehouse, another action packed afternoon! As we arrived, Lucy dashed off with her friends into the little ball pool. After a little while Lucy complained that she had bumped her head on the slide. She was a little upset but after a big cuddle and kiss she went back off to play. At lunchtime, Lucy requested her favourite: Macaroni Cheese. Lucy always loved to sit with her friend s at lunchtime, but today she wanted to sit with me. She pushed her favourite meal around the plate and didn’t eat a thing, very unusual! Lucy then crawled into the pushchair and quickly fell asleep, which was really out of character, but, maybe we’d over done the activities today. Lucy woke as we left but, as we arrived at the school gates, she was sick. This now explained why she’d not had her lunch and had fallen asleep at the wacky... she had a bug! In the evening Lucy was sick a couple of times again, and whilst in the bath she complained that her head hurt. I thought back to the afternoon and was now worried that this was connected to the bump on the slide, but it was just a little bump, there was no visible mark and she hadn’t bumped her head hard. It must just be a bug! Lucy slept in our bed that night so we could keep an eye on her. She woke up a few times and asked for a bucket to be sick in, which was very impressive for a two and a half year old. Each time we turned all of the lights on, rubbed her back, gave her a drink and washed her face. She’d have a little chat, then go back to sleep. Poor thing, she’s got a nasty bug! In the morning Lucy woke as usual, came downstairs, laid on the sofa, snuggled under a blanket with a bucket next to her whilst she watched television. Bren (Daddy) went off to work and my mum came over and took James to school, so I could stay at home with Lucy. I left the living room for a few minutes and, when I returned, Lucy had been sick again but this time was different... her sick was a really dark colour (almost black) and this time she had not woken up to be sick. I tried to wake Lucy but she was floppy and not really responding. As I was on the phone to Bren and the doctors she did become more responsive. I checked her temperature and it was normal. I then got her dressed in preparation to take her down to the hospital to get her checked out. Whilst getting her changed I checked her for any rashes but her skin was normal. A bit of eczema but that wasn’t anything unusual for Lucy. On the way to the hospital Lucy was talking but did seem very drowsy, and when we got to the hospital we noticed that her hands and feet were incredibly cold. At A & E Lucy was seen immediately. We were quickly taken into a room and were surrounded by doctors and nurses. As Lucy was really dehydrated, fluids were being pumped into her but she was becoming more unresponsive, had now developed a high temperature, and a couple of very tiny blemishes on her tummy and foot. The decision was made to start her on a course of antibiotics, just in case she had meningitis! Blood tests showed that Lucy had a very bad bacterial infection. She had lots of other tests done during the course of the afternoon and during the night, but the doctors still couldn’t find where this infection was. The following day, after being unable to identify the cause of the infection but suspecting meningitis, the doctor decided to carry out a lumbar puncture which would either confirm or disprove their suspicion. The results immediately came back positive... she had meningococcal meningitis. We are so thankful to the doctors for starting the antibiotics immediately as, by the time she had her lumbar puncture, she’d been on the antibiotics for 24 hours and was showing slight signs of improvement. Lucy came home five days later. She was very weak for a while after, and it took months for her balance to get back to normal. Other than having a hearing loss in her right ear now, she has made a full recovery, and after several follow up appointments, last year she was discharged from the hospital. Lucy is an amazing, funny, intelligent, cheeky, happy, fun loving five (almost six year old). She is extremely sociable and doing really well at school, we couldn’t be more proud of her. When people think about meningitis, they think about ‘the rash’ however, this is usually one of the last symptoms to develop, although not everybody does develop a rash. The rash only appears when the patient develops septicaemia (blood poisoning), which is only caused by the bacterial form of meningitis, and not viral meningitis. The first symptoms are usually:
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Limb pain
  • Pale skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty waking up
The more well known symptoms such as stiff neck, aversion to bright lights, and the non-blanching rash can often appear later on, or not at all. Don’t wait for the rash!