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Declan's story

26th December 2010

Declan's mum Lisa will never forget her son's second Christmas - it was the time she nearly lost him to a rare strain of meningitis

Declan's story

"On Boxing Day 2010 my two-year-old son Declan did not want to eat lunch and chose instead to sleep on the sofa, which we thought was most unusual.

He had been sleepy on Christmas Day too but we thought it was all the excitement of the day.

He asked to go to bed at about 5pm, which again was very unusual. When he got off the sofa, his legs gave away and he collapsed. We carried him up to bed to put his pyjamas on and by now he was very lethargic.

I noticed a small rash on his legs and my husband did the tumbler test and were reassured when it appeared to fade away so we thought it was a bug of some sort and I put him in my bed and nursed him all night. At midnight he had a temperature of over 40 so I phoned the out of hours service. The doctor told me there were many children in my area with bugs and said I could go to the hospital in the morning if I was still worried.

In the back of my mind I feared meningitis and sat next to Deccy searching the internet for information because a few days before Christmas Day he had come up to me and said his head was hurting. The next morning I decided to take Deccy to A&E. By this time he was really out of it. We jumped the queues but still waited hours before being transferred to a ward.

Then at the ward, only an inexperienced ward assistant took his temperature and then came back as she doubted her first reading of 40!"

Still no diagnosis

"After a few hours of being left completely alone I lost my patience as I could see my son deteriorating. The staff were of course busy as it was Christmas but I was enraged when a nurse told me that babies had priority over my two-year-old. A doctor was listening and she immediately came to see my son.

After examining him she asked me if I could carry him and run! She rushed us in for blood tests and other tests and that's how it all begun - my beautiful son's fight for his life.

I asked her if it was meningitis and she would not comment but I could see the look on her face, and the urgency that every treatment was then put in place and space in intensive care was made for him.

Because it was Christmas, there were minimum staff to test his blood and carry out a lumbar puncture. Eventually he was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis.

He lost the ability to move, walk and talk so had to relearn everything. I took home a very ill child a month into the New Year, who had to have every kind of therapy."

On the mend

"It has taken months of rehabilitation for Declan and he has done amazingly well. I want to make sure everyone knows the signs of meningitis and that time is so important.

I tell every parent to trust their instincts and that sometimes professionals are wrong so you have to fight for your child because no one else will! My two-year-old son nearly died and you always think meningitis will never happen to you, but it can and you have to be aware it's not just a rash that appears.

There are many signs. My son is still not fully recovered but we are lucky to have him. Meningoencephalitis is quite rare but very, very serious.

I do not want others to go through this."