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Daniel's story

24th February 2015

Twenty-month-old Daniel, from Newton Abbot in Devon, woke at 6am with a high temperature. He was sleepy and moaning when he saw his GP later that day, who immediately gave him antibiotics and called an ambulance

Daniel's story

Daniel had contracted the Meningococcal W135 strain and was seriously ill.

Never in their wildest dreams did the family think meningitis would strike them, but thankfully Daniel went on to recover well. Mum Julia recounts their story.

“At 6am Daniel woke crying.We put him in our bed and gave him paracetamol quickly followed by ibruprofen as his temperature was 40.3. An hour later his temperature had only come down to 39.8 and we were both a bit concerned.

Still, he appeared to pick up a little and came downstairs and fed himself Cheerios. We assumed he had a nasty virus. He was a little bit sick at about 9.30am, and again we assumed it was because he had a virus. He spent most of the day lying on the sofa with my husband, moaning and sleeping. He had one loose nappy.

Eventually my husband, who was caring for him while I was at work, was concerned enough to ring our GP as he was very sleepy and his temperature was constantly over 38, regardless of whether he had had any calpol or ibruprofen. However, it didn't cross either of our minds he might have meningitis, just a virus.

The GP agreed to check him over at 4.10pm. At about 3.30 my husband changed his nappy and took him to the surgery. He had no rash. The GP examined him and noticed spots starting to appear on his chest. She immediately administered antibiotics and arranged for an ambulance to take him to Torbay hospital."

They warned us he might die

“I had a call at 5pm to say they were going to hospital. By the time I arrived at 6.30pm he was being transferred to critical care. We couldn't see him because there were too many people working on him. We were told that he was the sickest patient on the hospital at that time and to prepare ourselves for the worst. Until then I had not realised just how bad the situation was.

Eventually we saw him in critical care. He was intubated via his mouth. His eyes were taped shut, he had a tube in his nose, heart monitors, an arterial line in his groin and cannulas running into both arms. They were giving him dopamine and adrenaline to try and keep his blood pressure up but it wasn’t enough, so they had pumped him full of plasma and saline and his body was starting to swell with the extra fluids. He didn't look anything like our baby.

We were informed that a team from Bristol Children's Hospital was coming to take him to PICU. The team that came were amazing - they explained everything to us and they left at about midnight with our son in an ambulance. We went up together by car. I remember wondering when we left Torbay if I would see Daniel alive again.

We all arrived at 3am and we stayed with Daniel until 6am. His blood pressure was still so low. Then they got a cross match for his blood and gave him a transfusion. It took four hours to go in and the difference it made was staggering. His blood pressure came up, his colour improved, things began looking much better.

He didn't wake until that evening and he started tugging at the tube in his mouth, so they decided to extubate. Suddenly we heard his voice again, although it was only to cry in pain. He spent an awful 12 to 14 hours crying and screaming and it was eventually decided to sedate him to avoid his distress and to scan his brain for infection. The scan was clear but the lumbar puncture showed that the infection had spread into his spinal column".

He made a miraculous recovery

“He continued to improve over the next few days, and after five days in PICU we returned to Exeter Hospital. We had another five days there. Daniel needed to relearn all his basic skills, pincer grip, feeding, sitting, walking. When we left hospital he was still unable to walk, but a week later he learnt to do that again too. He suffered PTSD and headaches and pain in his limbs. We are awaiting a second hearing test but his basic hearing is okay.

To look at him now you would never know. He made a miraculous recovery. The doctors were shocked at the speed of his recovery. We were so lucky. The timing on that first day was crucial to saving his life. If the GP hadn't given antibiotics the prognosis certainly wouldn't have been as good. “Now, to look at him, you would never know.

Ten days after his discharge I gave birth to his little sister and he is now the doting big brother. We are so proud of him, he fought so hard. We just wish we had known more about what we were facing when it happened. Never in our wildest dreams did we think meningitis could happen to us.

Meningitis Now has been a big support to us, giving us advice on the long-term after-effects.”