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Emma A's story

6th May 2017

Nicki's daughter Emma was 5 months old when she contracted viral meningitis. It was Emma's unusual and 'whiney' cry which first alerted Nicki that something was wrong

Emma A's story

"Emma usually wakes around 6.30am but on the morning she became ill, I had to wake her up at 9am to take my son to nursery. She slept most of that morning too.

"We had to travel up to Newcastle that afternoon as we were attending a wedding the next day. Half way through the journey she began to cry - we thought she was just bored as it was approximately a one and a half hour drive. I even commented to my husband that her cry sounded unusual, it was 'whiney'.

"When we arrived I noticed she had developed a temperature so I gave her some Calpol. She settled slightly but over the next three hours she became unsettled and wanted to be held all the time. Her temperature kept rising and it was clear that she was unhappy and in discomfort, as every time I adjusted her position while holding her she would cry and looked to be in pain.

Something wasn't right

"I was starting to feel quite concerned and felt that something wasn't right - I wasn't sure what, but it was just a gut feeling. I took her vest off to cool her down and noticed how mottled and blotchy her torso looked. I also noticed that her hands and feet were freezing cold, despite her temperature being over 39 degrees. I decided to take her to the local walk in centre to get her checked as I had never seen her that unwell before.

"When we arrived at around 10.30pm the receptionist told me that the centre was appointment only and they didn't see children under the age of two, but thankfully when we explained how concerned we were she agreed to speak to the doctor on call and he immediately agreed to see us.

Second opinion

"The doctor was fantastic, he checked her over and said that he couldn't be certain of a diagnosis but wanted to refer Emma to the local hospital for a second opinion. We arrived at the A&E department and within a few minutes we were in a room and Emma was being assessed. I remember so clearly thinking we were going to be sent home, but instead the doctor said 'I think she has meningitis'. I was so shocked I actually laughed because I was both shocked and terrified at the same time.

"From that moment it was a whirlwind. Emma was taken for a lumbar puncture and immediately started on intravenous antibiotics.

"We were taken up to the ward where we waited for the results to come back. Within a few hours it was confirmed that she had meningitis, but it was a long 48 hours before we were told it was viral rather than bacterial. Emma spent five days in isolation in hospital before she was well enough to come home.

Given the all clear

"She had a follow up appointment with the consultant three months later, but as she wasn't meeting some of her development milestones there was concern that she had possibly been left with some neurological damage. She had 3 hearing tests which she passed and thankfully she was given the all clear six months later.

"Emma is two next month and she's absolutely thriving now! I'll never forget how quickly she became ill and how grateful we are that it was viral rather than bacterial, as I worry that we might not have been so lucky.

"Looking back she had so many of the symptoms and I feel frustrated at myself for not linking all her symptoms together earlier.

Trust your instincts

"I'm a paramedic and now I make sure that I make as many people aware of the symptoms as I can and I always tell parents to trust their gut instinct!"