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Ben P's story

21st May 2015

Mother and nurse, Leah Pope, knew there was a problem when newborn son Ben was suffering from an unusually high temperature, on 2 September 2013 he was diagnosed with E.coli meningitis. She recalls their story here

Ben P's story

Early symptoms

“It was our second night at home after Ben had been born. He started to become very unsettled, giving a very weak cry or a whimper unless he was being cuddled. I spent all night awake cuddling him to try and get him settled, and trawling through Google to find out why my baby would not sleep. I thought it was colic or something.

The following morning I was changing his nappy and Ben felt very warm. Luckily I had a thermometer that I had needed previously for my oldest son. I checked Ben’s temperature and it was 38.3 degrees.

Being a nurse, backed up by research from my all night Google session, I knew that new-borns need to be seen by a doctor with a temperature that high."


“We managed to get a doctor’s appointment very quickly but by the time we got to the appointment, Ben had become very sleepy and was still very hot. The GP examined him and said although he presented quite normally she wanted him to go to A & E for a septic screen.

We quickly went to Royal Derby Hospital A & E where they took blood and urine samples, X-rays and a lumbar puncture. Ben was still very sleepy and crying every time he moved even slightly.

He was started on antibiotics and was admitted to the children's ward. I couldn't believe it. Ben was only five days old. This wasn't supposed to be happening.

After an hour or so a doctor told me they had the lumbar puncture results back which confirmed he had meningitis. I felt numb. I had thought it was just a UTI or something.

My husband was at home sorting out child care for my eldest son and I remember trying to explain it to him when he came back in. He had so many questions which I just couldn't answer and I had to get the doctors to come back to talk to him."


“Ben remained very sleepy for days. I had to keep setting an alarm to wake up to feed him, stripping him down and really waking him up every few hours to ensure he actually fed.

The doctors started him on antibiotics and antivirals as the lumbar puncture showed markers for both viral and bacterial meningitis. Later the antivirals were stopped and they grew E.coli in his urine and he was put on the correct antibiotics.

I was told that E.coli meningitis requires three weeks of antibiotics and that Ben needed a long line inserted. After a number of failed attempts due to his age, he was sent to theatre where the neonatal doctor put one in. It took around five hours to do."


“As the weeks went by Ben got stronger and more alert. We were allowed home leave with the understanding that we came back for antibiotics.

Finally, three weeks after Ben was admitted we were discharged. He has had lots of follow ups, hearing tests and physiotherapy and luckily he seems to have no after-effects from the disease.

He is a very happy, healthy and cheeky 20 month old boy. It is an experience I will never forget and would never wish on anyone. We’re very lucky - I think the early detection and treatment prevented his illness from being any worse. I cannot thank the GP enough for sending us straight to A&E and the care we received at Royal Derby Hospital.

In 2014 when Ben was seven months old my husband and I ran the Derby 10k to raise money for Meningitis Now.”