Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Does My Baby Have Meningitis? Our Worst Week

This time last week I was preparing for a second night in hospital with Little E. You may have noticed I haven't been around much. We had an absolute nightmare of a week last week with our poor little baby. After she had her first trial day at the nursery over 2 weeks ago, Little E had suffered with a gunky eye which I had assumed was conjunctivitis.

I took her to the GP the very next day and he took a look, he said it was fine and nothing to worry about so we left without treatment. A couple of days later she developed a cough and was struggling to sleep because of her blocked nose so I took her to the Health Centre - just for peace of mind. He just said it was viral and we should just treat her with Calpol and Ibuprofen. She remained the same for over a week and I returned to work last Monday. She was well in herself, just bunged up. On Tuesday however, whilst I was at work I was told that she had slept for most of the day and when I got her home she was not herself at all. Here's how it all unfolded...


It's 8.00pm and Little E has been really sleepy today. She's been snuffly for a couple of weeks and she's had runny eyes but the GP had told us it was just a virus and nothing to worry about. Since I got back from work though she's been drowsy, I can wake her but she's not herself and she goes straight off to sleep. I go online at consult NHS Direct and submit a form filling out Little E's details including her date of birth and a nurse calls me back 5 minutes later. She asks lots of questions - does she have a rash? are her lips blue? and then she says she will have a doctor call me back. 5 minutes later our local out of hours GP calls me and he suggests I bring her to the Health Centre in 20 minutes. Mister A is in bed so Chris stays home with him and I call my mum to ask her to come with me.

8.40pm We arrive at the health centre and the GP calls us straight through. He asks me to undress Little E and after examining her says he 'doesn't like the look of her' and wants to send her to paediatrics immediately. I start to panic - our local doctors usually just send you off with a tissue so I fear that there is something seriously wrong. She's now developed a rash on her tummy but it does  disappear when touched. The health centre is based at the local hospital so we get sent round to Children's A&E. We are greeted by a nurse who asks me to undress Little E fully so that she can be weighed. She's 15lb 5oz she whimpers as I re-dress her and begins to cough. Her temperature is over 40 degrees. We are asked to return to the busy waiting room where other sick and injured children sit patiently.

9.30pm Little E's name is called and we are not taken to the usual cubicles, instead we are taken straight through to an assessment ward. We sit there waiting and we are asked to collect a urine sample. After taking her nappy off we have to hold the sample pot underneath her - nothing will make her go - we tickle her, blow on her tummy, try to make her giggle... no wee. Eventually after over an hour I decide to 'fashion' a nappy out of some paper towels and she immediately wees all over my hand. It was the first time I had laughed since I arrived home and I feel guilty for making light of a terrible situation.The sample is then taken off for testing.

10.45pm We see an F2 who examines Little E. She suspects it's something viral but bleeps the Senior paediatrician for his opinion. When he arrives at around 11.30pm, he examines her and says that the assessment ward closes at midnight. He's not sure what is wrong with her but as she is having trouble maintaining her own temperature he decides to admit her. He sees that I'm worried and tries to put my mind at ease - "Don't worry, if you had brought her in earlier then she would have been able to go home - we just need to monitor her for a bit longer so it's just easier to admit her and check on her through the night." I feel better knowing that it's just a precautionary measure.


12.30am My Dad arrives to take my mum home and brings 'supplies' - in the panic though he picks up size 1 nappies! Bless him. I open up the fold up bed but I know I won't be getting much sleep - Little E is really clingy now and won't settle.

1.00am The nurse comes to check her obs and warns me that the doctor is on her way in to take some bloods. When the doctor arrives I have just managed to settle Little E but that all goes out the window once they use one of those punch things to prick her heel and start to squeeze 2 vials of blood out of her.

I spend the next couple of hours trying to get Little E off to sleep, she won't settle so the nurse brings a massive old Silver Cross coach built pram and I try to rock her to sleep in that. Every time I think she's in a deep sleep she wakes when I try and climb in to my bed.

3.50am I manage about 10 minutes sleep before the 2 doctors and a nurse burst in to the room.and turn the lights on. I can hardly focus on what's being said as my eyes try to re-adjust under the fluorescent lighting. "We need to do a lumbar puncture immediately and get a canular in her now." They explain that the blood results have come back and they are showing bacteria in Little E's bloodstream which could mean she has meningitis. They recommend that I wait in the room whilst they do the procedure as usually parents find it too distressing to watch. In the panic I agree and soon I am sat alone  with tears streaming down my face. I try to call Chris but he must be in a deep sleep so I call my mum.which makes me worse. I haven't even asked if there could be complications. The clock slowly ticks over and I can hear my baby screaming down the corridor.

4.20am Little E is brought back to the room with her arm bandaged. The canular is in and she's had her first dose of IV antibiotics but because she is so upset they ask me to try and settle her before they do the lumbar puncture. Nothing will calm her down and even when I try to breastfeed she only wants to cry. Eventually she calms down, only to be whisked away again to have the fluid taken from her spine. I try Chris again and this time he answers, he sobs as I tell him what's going on. We are both scared and fear the worst, although we know that she is in good hands.

4.45am My baby is finally returned to me, the lumbar puncture has been done but she's been screaming so much that her little voice has started to break. The nurse says I have to keep her flat for the next 5 hours otherwise Little E will suffer from an awful headache. How are you supposed to calm a baby down if you have to keep them flat? I'm allowed to hold her in my arms but I can't rock her like I normally would. and she still wont settle. I have now gone 23 hours without sleep and I can feel my own body starting to shut down. As I try to soothe my daughter I start to feel dizzy and fall back on to the bed. I buzz the nurse. She insists on taking Little E out of the room in the pram so that I can rest. I feel so guilty but I know I need to sleep to be strong for my baby.

The nurse brings Little E back to me, she's managed some sleep too but she's hungry now. I lie her next to me on the fold up bed and feed her. After half an hour she finally drifts off in to a deep sleep and I move her in to her bed before closing my own eyes and drifting off.

9.30am We are awoken by the doctors returning to the room. I'm still dizzy from lack of sleep and having slept in my contact lenses I can hardly see. They explain that the results of the lumbar puncture have come back and Little E does not have Meningitis. I feel like a weight has been lifted, I'm so relieved. The doctors explain that they are still unclear about what is causing Little E to be so ill and they are now growing cultures on the spinal fluid, the blood and eye swabs to see what grows. In the meantime they will continue to pump the IV antibiotics in to her to try and cure whatever it is that's wrong. I call everyone to let them know but then start to wonder what exactly is happening to my baby maybe the chest X-Ray will tell us more.

12.30pm We head to the X-Ray department for Little E's chest X-Ray where we have a 40 minute wait before we are called in. I have to put on a massive heavy pinafore to keep me safe whilst I hold Little E still. She's still not herself and she cries as I hold her in place.

2.00pm Little E is still unable to control her own temperature. She remains only in her nappy and is given Calpol and Ibuprofen alternately every few hours. Her nose is still streaming and she keeps wiping her nose on the bandages on her arm that cover her canular. She's tugging at her arm too.

5.00pm Finally Little E smiles and I start to relax - she seems a lot more settled now the antibiotics have started to kick in. We have visits from Mister A and Daddy and Grandma and Grandad and the play lady comes in with some bits to keep us entertained. The chest X-Ray has also come back clear so the doctors still don't know what's going on. We prepare for our second night in hospital.


5.00am The nurse comes in with her torch to administered another dose of antibiotics. Little E has been up and down through the night and I have had to feed her at least 5 times. Her nose is still blocked so she can't take a full feed.

9.00am Another nurse and more antibiotics. When this nurse checks the canular though - it's not good news - Little E has somehow managed to pull the canular completely out of her arm. Luckily it was noticed straight away or it could have bled out. We are now faced with another canular insertion and I decide that this time I will go with her.

12.00pm We've been waiting for hours for the doctors to come and collect us. I'd rather get it out of the way and get the antibiotics back in to her as soon as possible. Eventually they arrive and we are lead in to a side room where 2 doctors, 3 nurses and a play member are waiting. I lie her down on the bed and she seems content until they start gripping her wrist. They struggle to find her veins. They can't put it back in the left hand so they try her right. I watch as the needle goes in to her hand and she screams in pain but then the doctor says it's not in her vein and takes it straight back out. He struggles to locate a new site and then decides on her left foot - the same foot that they took blood from on our first night.  Eventually it's complete and I cuddle her in my arms to settle her. Her leg is now in a splint to stop this one from coming out and it's bandaged quite heavily.

5.00pm I start to get grumpy because  I've not been eating properly - the canteen sandwiches leave a lot to be desired - and I force my mum to bring me in a McDonalds when the nurse confirms we are staying another night. Luckily Little E seems a lot brighter. We're told the culture results should be back in the morning and depending on the outcome I can take my baby home. It will be nice to get things back to normal. The past few days have seemed unreal.

10.00pm The Doctor comes to reveal the results. The cultures were clear. I feel guilty now for allowing the lumbar puncture when it was un-necessary but I know it had to be done. They explain that it was probably a combination of septic tonsillitis, flu and an eye infection (all missed by the first doctors at our surgery). The infections took over her body and caused the massive rise in temperature. We will be allowed to go home later today.

3.00pm We are finally discharged with oral antibiotics and eye drops. Little E looks so much better already and the doctors have told me to send her to nursery to get her back in to her normal routine. I'm so glad the nightmare is over and we are excited to be home again with the boys.

It's been over a week now and Little E still can't shake her snuffles but she's a million times better and she's happy. The nightmare week has gone but won't ever be forgotten and I hope that we never ever have to go through anything like that ever again.
For more information on Meningitis please see the NHS website.


  1. Oh this is so awful to read - Im close to tears as I know how I'd feel if this happened to one of my precious babies. You poor thing. Im so glad your little one is OK now.

  2. My goodness that must have been so frightening for you, (for you being at hospital alone and your husband being home no doubt imagining all sorts). I'm nursing my no 2 baby as I write and as I look at him I hope and pray I never have to go through anything like that with any of my children. I'm pleased to hear Little E is on the mend, I hope you never have to know that pain and fear again x x