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Poppy H’s story

2nd December 2015

Poppy, from Bridport in Dorset, was an easy going baby, but in May she developed a high temperature, wouldn’t feed and was crying, which later turned into a high-pitched moan – all classic symptoms of meningitis

Poppy H’s story

Fortunately, she went on to make a remarkable recovery. Mum Jenny takes up their story.

“Poppy was a very happy baby, completely different to her older sister Maisy. She was very easy going.

“It was bank holiday Monday at the end of May, and we had decided it would be nice to take both Poppy, aged 11 weeks, and her sister, Maisy, 16 months, to Monkey World, about an hour’s drive from home.

“Poppy slept all night from a young age, but it wasn't abnormal for her to wake for a five minute feed around 4:30am, so when she woke we thought nothing of it. Poppy felt very hot to touch, even though she was dressed in only a long sleeved vest and thin sleeping bag. She fed frantically, not herself at all, and wouldn't settle easily after.

“I thought she was tired, or teething, as she had been showing other signs. I gave her some Calpol and ended up getting up with her. We decided to go ahead with our day out and set off around 9am. Poppy was a fantastic car sleeper, but every time we stopped, she would moan. Maybe she was finally hungry?

“She still wouldn't feed. I was breast feeding at the time but used to take a bottle out just in case, but she wouldn't take that either. She didn't sleep in the pushchair, and wasn't keen on being carried in her sling.

“We took photos on the day going round the park and didn't realise how pale and miserable she looked until looking back at them. We went home and my husband, Simon, took Maisy to his mum's to play for a bit.

She became frantic if touched

“I kept Poppy at home. Simon came home and put Maisy to bed around 6pm. Poppy usually settled around the same sort of time, but she just wouldn't. We bought her downstairs with us and tried everything to settle her, until she became frantic if we even touched her. She didn't want to be put down, but she wouldn't be held either.

“Something wasn't right. Her temperature was 39c, taken with three different types of thermometer to be sure. I decided to make a call to 111, a service we had used many times before. Poppy's symptoms were given and for some reason I just didn't twig it could be meningitis.

“They said a GP would ring us back within the hour. About 9:30pm we got that call. I explained all her symptoms and the fact that she was now blotchy but pale and reacted very badly to handling. The GP told me it was most likely colic but I explained I'd had a baby who cried for no particular, visible reason and it just wasn't Poppy.

“Every symptom I gave, I was given a reason why it was ‘normal’ or why I was being ‘paranoid’. I was told I would be able to have an appointment ‘if I wanted one’ for her at out of hours 20 minutes away, but I'd have to get there for 11pm when they went off duty.

“I felt sick and shaky at this point as I wasn't being listened to and I felt something wasn't right. I drove Poppy very quickly to the hospital while my husband stayed at home to look after Maisy, and ran her straight in at ten to eleven. The GP there examined her, and agreed that her temperature was high and she was very unsettled and still wouldn't feed.

“He spent a while on the phone to the children's ward saying that Poppy needed to be seen as she was under 12 weeks old with a temperature of 38c plus. He told me he thought she may have bronchiolitis and not to worry too much, but he'd managed to make sure we'd be seen upstairs by the paediatric doctors.

“I looked at my phone and it said 11:35pm and I had 3 per cent battery. I had no money for parking and no nappies with me either, as I'd just bundled her in the car.

Extremely distressed

“We walked in and were seen straight away by a lovely paediatrician and a SCBU nurse. It was clear that Poppy was extremely distressed, dehydrated and unwell. It was noted that she had some areas of pin prick pink rash that didn't fade with pressure. My legs gave way when they told me they would need to take bloods immediately as they believed that Poppy had an obvious case of meningitis.

“They cannulated her hand, such an awful thing to see, and then went to make sure there was a bed on SCBU for her should it be needed. The nurse was so kind, reassuring me and trying to feed Poppy.

“I was told to leave the room as they would be performing a lumbar puncture and it isn't at all pleasant to witness.

“By this point, Poppy was being given antibiotics intravenously. I phoned my husband, who was understandably upset, especially as he wouldn't be able to get there immediately because we had to ask my dad to drive to ours to look after Maisy.

“When Simon arrived, Poppy had just had her lumbar puncture and I felt extremely guilty that she had spent the day suffering and we had just carried on. Poppy's tests came back without growing any bacteria but they were convinced it was bacterial meningitis because of the way she was responding to treatment.

“She had had a weepy eye from birth, which I'd mentioned to a few doctors, but no swab was ever taken. They took one in the hospital and it came back that it had grown haemophilus bacteria. We were told this used to cause meningitis in babies but was uncommon nowadays. Another lumbar puncture was taken two days later and sent to Great Ormond Street Hospital, as they don't test for haemophilus at many places any more.

Remarkable recovery

“It came back as growing nothing, but Poppy was treated for two weeks with IV antibiotics regardless. After eight days we left hospital, returning nightly for antibiotics.

“Poppy made a remarkable recovery. There were some concerns that it had affected her development because she lost her head control for a while, but with regular physio she is exceeding expectations. She is a happy nine month old now, crawling and babbling and sitting up confidently.

“We are so proud of her and so grateful to the Kingfisher Ward and Dorset County Hospital for being so kind, knowledgeable and fantastic during such a dark time.

“The ward is under threat of closure, with the second nearest place to us being another 45 minutes away. No doubt Poppy's situation would not have had such a good outcome without the ward being accessible to us on that night.

“I found Meningitis Now really helpful and supportive while in hospital with Poppy, and we now share regular posts on the symptoms of meningitis to inform friends on Facebook and Twitter.”