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Harris's story

10th January 2017

Andrea’s baby son Harris contracted viral meningitis not once but twice in the first few weeks of his young life

Harris's story

Thankfully the plucky youngster fought back both times and is now doing fine. Andrea, from Cumbernauld, tells their story.

“Harris was only 11 days old when I started to notice that something wasn’t quite right - being so young I was just getting to know him myself.

“He was taking all feeds as normal and sleeping loads, as they do at his age. His sister caught a 24-hour bug and two days later Harris didn’t seem himself. He was sleeping but making a wee grunting noise if I lifted him. I thought he had caught the bug his sister had so I kept an eye on him, but two days later he wasn’t getting any better, so I popped into the doctors to see if anyone could check him over, as his temperature was 37.8.

“They told me to come back at 3pm, so I did. He was still very sleepy when I arrived. The doctor said he may have the same bug as his sister but when I said I wasn’t happy she asked the nurse to check him. She asked if he was normally this sleepy and I said, "No, but he’s only 11 days old.

Called an ambulance

“She called for an ambulance. Harris’s temperature went to 38.2, his eyes were closing back and he started to fit and be unresponsive. When the ambulance crew arrived they took his blood sugars, which came back as dangerously low. They had to get them up, so they gave him this gel and they said they had to blue light us to the nearest hospital, as they feared Harris would not make the other hospital.

“I have never been so scared in all my life. This wee soul was reliant on me helping him and there was nothing I could do. We got to hospital and they started to administer antibiotics into his tiny hands through a cannula. They were shaking as they hadn’t had to do this on a child this young before.

“They managed to stabilise Harris and we were then moved to Wishaw Children’s Ward in Wishaw General, 12 miles away. Again, we were blue lighted over there. By this point Harris was getting poorly again, his oxygen levels were dropping and he was really struggling to stay awake. When we arrived they said his symptoms were possibly suspected sepsis. I had never heard of sepsis but I had heard the term septicaemia, which I knew was life threatening.

Next 24 hours critical

“They called in all their teams of doctors and advised me that Harris was really sick and the next 24 hours were critical. We were put into a side room, with my boy, me and my partner James. I never slept; just sat and watched as all the machine alarms kept going off. It was the worst night of my life, my poor boy.

“The next day Harris seemed to have turned the corner. His doctor said they were really happy with his progress but that he was still a really poorly wee boy. They advised me that they had to know what caused him to get so sick and they scheduled a lumbar puncture.

“It confirmed Harris had viral meningitis. Just the word meningitis puts a lump in my throat and sends shivers down my spine. I’ve always been aware of the symptoms but not really with babies.

“We all stayed in hospital with Harris for a week and day by day he battled and we were then allowed home. I was so scared to take him home. "How could I stop this happening again?" I asked the doctor and she said simply, "You can’t."

Off to hospital again

“Harris was a lively little baby boy and I took him home to bond… then it struck again! He was 11 weeks old and he kept crying weirdly. I put it down to colic but it was a sore cry so I watched him like a hawk. I took his temperature and watched over the next few hours. His temperature had risen to 37.9 so that was it - off to hospital we went.

“They took his temperature and said it had dropped to 37.2 but they would watch him for a few hours. Sure enough, his temperature went back up to 38.4. His bloods came back clear but because I was on the ball and had caught it so early it wasn’t showing in the bloods. Again, they did a lumbar puncture and yes, again, they confirmed it was meningitis. Although it was viral it was a different strain than the last time.

“We felt so experienced from the last time and we knew the drill about what would happen next. We stayed in another week and little Harris fought to get better, although he wasn’t as sick as he had been first time. He was laughing and smiling.

“I’m so lucky to have such a happy, healthy boy. He’s now almost six months old and honestly, he’s a blessing. I still walk around with a thermometer in my bag pocket though; I am so paranoid. Now the doctors have done tests on Harris to see if there is a problem with his immune system, but all came back fine; they said it was purely bad luck!”