Mum Annabelle, from Rochester in Kent, recounts their story here.
“My baby boy Henry was three months old and spent his first Christmas in hospital. Doctors said all his symptoms were pointing to a viral infection, and after three days we returned home on Christmas evening. Although he was still not 100 per cent we thought he was on the mend. Something just didn’t seem right though; he had always been such a good eater and loved his milk but he was so uninterested still.
“After returning home our little Henry still refused to feed and we decided to take him back in on Boxing Day morning. Luckily we had open access to the ward. I was told to keep trying to feed him and to use syringes to get fluid into him and that he will feed eventually.
“We went home and tried so desperately to get the milk in him but it was just dribbling out of his mouth. I remember looking into his eyes and he seemed so vacant and sad. He was getting more and more lethargic. I just didn’t know what to do; I almost felt too embarrassed to go back to hospital again after repeatedly being told he will be fine and just keep pushing the fluids, eventually he will be back to normal.
Just being a dramatic mother
“I thought I was just being a dramatic mother and things weren’t as bad as they appeared. Why would I, the hospital told me he would be okay.
“As I lay him down on the sofa his lips and skin were beginning to turn blue and he was mottled. He was so limp, like a rag doll. I will never forgot how ill he looked. I went into a state of shock. I didn’t know what to do! I was in a state of disbelief that this could be happening to my healthy beautiful baby boy.
“He was breathing so fast my husband took him and said we’re going back. Yet again we were not taken seriously at the hospital. I want to highlight to all parents that if your gut tells you something’s not right then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If we had we may not have our little boy with us today.
Vital signs were worrying
“His vital signs were worrying, with a heart rate of 210 bpm. One of the doctors came to us and said ‘I can’t seem to find his blood results’. I said ‘that’s because he hasn’t had any done’, which I thought was strange. We kicked up a fuss and said we were worried and the doctors laughed and said ‘why are you so worried? What do you think is going to happen?’ I was so angry, I knew something wasn’t right. Every part of me knew my baby was not okay.
“They took bloods after numerous attempts and not once did Henry flinch from the pain of the needles. He was too tired and in too much pain to care. I was told to go home and that they would contact me if there were any abnormalities. I was so upset and asked them to repeat the observations. The doctor then said ‘I’m not happy to send you home with a heart rate above 200’. I was relieved!
Never forget his cry
“So, I spent the night on the ward with a screaming baby on my own, still desperately trying to breastfeed and begging him to take something or show some interest in the milk. I will never forget his cry that night, it was so awful, such a painful unforgettable cry.
“At 5 in the morning I was told his bloods were back and they showed signs of infection, so we were sent for a chest x-ray as they queried pneumonia. That was bad enough. Looking at my tiny baby surrounded by these noisy massive machines I couldn’t believe we were going through this! The x-ray was normal and I spent the rest of the morning with an almost lifeless baby in my arms.
“When the consultant arrived that morning he took one look at us and said ‘I’m going to do a lumbar puncture’. That’s when I broke down. My worst fears were confirmed. ‘You think it’s meningitis’ I sobbed. And I kept saying they were trying to send us home!
Starting to come back
“The only place they could get a cannula was in his head as all his veins had shut down. He lost so many cannulas due to him sweating and screaming but as soon as they got the antibiotics in him it was like I could see my Henry starting to come back. His poor head and face were so swollen and he looked exhausted but he was no longer crying.
“I have never felt so helpless. Just sitting by his bedside waiting and watching, praying the medicine would work and still not knowing if he would pull through and what the after-affects might be. How did this happen to us, Meningitis! I could not believe it. I always thought you would get a rash and I would just know. I just knew this was one of the worst things that you could get as a child and my boy had it. Nothing else in the world mattered. I always thought how would anyone cope in this situation, but you do you stay strong for them.
“I still can’t believe it to this day but Henry made a full recovery. I know how different our lives would be if this story had a different ending, like so many other families have. I am so thankful everyday that he is still here and it now just seems like a bad dream. I’m just happy that Meningitis Now is spreading awareness.”