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Meningitis

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13/02/2006 at 14:18
I listened with interest to the governments plans to introduce a vaccine for pneumoccocal meningitis. Unfortunately, it came a little too late for our family. Just before Christmas this year, my then 3 and half month old daughter contracted the disease. Her condition quickly deteriorated from a fever and lethargy to breathing difficulties, seizures and loss of consciousness. A lumbar puncture diagnosed meningitis, although at this stage we did not know which type.
Our daughter was immediately treated with a cocktail of intravenous antibiotics, anti-virals and fluids. Her breathing eventually stabilised but her condition was still critical. She was beginning to fit frequently and a CT scan revealed a large collection of fluid on the right frontal lobe and a small bleed. She was now showing a weakness in her right arm and leg. The worst was yet to come, however, on the third night after admission her breathing became shallow and eventually stopped, the crash team were called and as we watched helplessly a team of medics burst into the cubicle and began rescussitation. Thankfully, after a couple of minutes she began to breathe again. The hospital felt that at this point she needed to be transferred to intensive care. The neuro surgeons were called and it was decided that she needed an operation to insert a drain into the subdural cavity in her brain to drain the infected fluid and hopefully relieve the pressure in her brain. The operation was successful and gradually the fluid began to drain and our little girl slowly began to respond. Neurologists and paediatricians gently prepared us for the possibility that, even though she was more alert and responsive, she may well have suffered irreparable brain damage. It was a slow and painful wait with many scans and assessments. Each smile and eye contact raised our hopes. The physiotherapists taught us how to encourage the use of her weak right arm and the occupational therapist gave us a specially adapted chair to encourage good posture. All we could do was hope and pray that she would make a full recovery.
Six weeks on, our amazing daughter has been discarged from hospital and appears to have escaped any long term problems. Despite going through a horrendous illness, she is a happy, apparently 'normal' five month old.
Clearly, we do not know what the future holds for her. There is an increased chance of epilepsy and certain other neurological conditions. She has many outpatient appointments with audiology, opthamology and paediatricians but most importantly, she has survived against all the odds!
I felt compelled to post this message, partly for my own therapy but also as a reminder to other parents to be extra vigilant. Our daughter did not have the classic symptoms of meningitis i.e. a rash or resistance to light. She had a temperature which was not responding to 4 hourly calpol and was generally lethargic. If you are at all concerned about your child do not hesitate to take him/her to your local A&E.
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