Loving father and mother, Andrew and Tania Bromwich, of Birmingham, recall the short time it took for meningitis to claim their sons life and the devastating impact this has had on their family.
“Joshua passed away on 27 July 2004, aged three. He was born nine weeks premature and weighed 5lb 3oz - a good weight for such an early arrival.
He didn't have the greatest of starts. When he was in special care he had two small bleeds on the brain and an infection which nearly took his life.
After being discharged Joshua developed normally, however up until the age of two, he had minor ailments such as regular chest infections (asthma). He grew from strength to strength and was a very healthy, happy boy and the year leading to his death he was rarely poorly.
We had our baby girl Abbie when Joshua was two-and-a-half years old. Just as Tania returned to work when Abbie was six months old, both Joshua and Abbie got chickenpox. This was approximately six weeks prior to Josh's death.”
Couldn’t have predicted what they were about to face
“Two weeks later they both developed a stomach bug. Joshua recovered quickly but it took Abbie rather a long time and she was placed on antibiotics.
The day Abbie recovered (Saturday 24 July) Joshua went to Dudley Zoo for a friend’s birthday. He was running around and had a great time. We would never have guessed what we were just about to be faced with.
On Sunday we took a walk and Josh was on his new Thomas bike which he just had for his birthday. On the way home, Joshua said he was tired and asked if we could push him up the hill. Later that evening Joshua ate his tea but didn’t seem himself. It was just as if he was coming down with a cold.
Tania took his temperature and it was only slightly raised at 37.5 degrees, but when Joshua woke up the next day he had a temperature of 40. When Tania tried to take him to the toilet he was very weak. His temperature wouldn't come down and she was so concerned that she took him to A & E. This was around 8:00am."
Waiting for an answer
“At no point did Joshua have a rash but when he was at hospital he was very lethargic. Bloods were taken and Tania knew this was no normal illness, but to be honest, we never would have said meningitis either.
By around 2:00pm that afternoon Joshua was fitting and they could not bring him out of this fit. He was intubated and placed on antibiotics then taken for a scan. As there was no intensive care for children at the hospital he was at, the safest place for him was in a theatre prep room.
We were waiting for a team from Leicester Hospital to come as there were no beds at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. We don't know what the delay was but by the time they got to us it was very late. When they were examining Joshua they were not happy to move him and requested another scan.
Shortly afterwards we were told that they would not be taking Joshua as it was not safe for him so he was taken via ambulance and police escort to Birmingham Children’s Hospital at around 10:00pm."
We were in so much shock
“Doctors tried to release pressure off Joshua's brain but just before midnight we were told he was brain dead. We were in so much shock. How could our boy be playing one day and brain dead the next?
At no point before this was meningitis mentioned. Doctors said they were running more tests whilst Joshua was on life support as they would get a more accurate reading before turning the machines off. They were also looking at encephalitis as this was a rare complication from chickenpox.
At around 5:00pm on 27 July we turned Joshua’s machines off. Our happy little boy was gone. Nothing could have prepared us for losing Joshua and we miss him so much.
Post-mortem confirmed that he had pneumococcal meningitis.”
Importance of vaccinations and remaining vigilant
“We found it hard to take that the vaccinations were rolled out nationwide the autumn after Joshua died but are so thankful that our children have had this. We can't stress to other parents enough how important this vaccination is.
We now have three beautiful girls who all know about their brother and are aware of the cause of his death - as you can imagine we have had question after question.
We are blessed as a family that we had great support from Tania's church and continue to have their support.
Every parent's words are "it would never happen to us" and we believe that parents need to be made aware of how silent and rapid meningitis is.”
There is currently no vaccination to protect against all types of meningitis therefore it is vital to remain vigilant of all the signs and symptoms of the disease – don’t wait for a rash.
Andrew will be cycling from Birmingham to Weston-Super-Mare on Saturday 11th July 2015 to raise money for Meningitis Now in memory of Joshua.