Floppy and unresponsive
On the 5th December 2013 our then nine-week-old son Freddie was taken ill with E-coli Meningitis. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The word ‘meningitis’ is one that comes with so much fear, yet most people don't know how to spot the fatal disease.
‘But he hasn't got a rash!’ was the first thing I said upon his diagnosis the morning after he was rushed into A & E. Little did I know that the rash is only one of the many symptoms of meningitis and the ‘glass test’ rash may never actually appear.
Luckily for us we were at Sheffield Children's Hospital, who have an amazing team that tested him for everything under the sun as a precaution. At this point Josh went home with our daughter Savannah whilst we were waiting for the results and it seemed that we would have nothing to worry about and we would just be sent home. He had a urine test, just in case. He had a blood test, just in case. He had a lumbar puncture, just in case. He was put on IV antibiotics, just in case.
And, to put it plainly – thank God. Thank you to that doctor at SCH. Thank you to the ‘mother’s instinct’ somewhere in my brain that clicked that something wasn't quite right despite Fred having his first set of jabs that morning. Thank you to science for providing quick and efficient testing of this deadly disease.
The next day as we delivered the news, there was shock and heartbreak all across our family and friends’ circle. People tried their best to be strong for us and offer their outstretched arms filled with love. We are so lucky to have such amazing people in our lives. Thank you to each and every one of you.
I felt so helpless
Freddie was put on an IV antibiotic drip and fluids to keep him hydrated as he was too weak to breastfeed. This was the worst part of the treatment experience. That damn cannula.
Watching him scream as the nurses held him down and pierced his skin five, six, seven, eight times before they found a vein strong enough to hold his drip tube. Having to watch him be in so much pain, hearing that heart-piercing scream; I'm crying now recalling it.
And this happened several times a day. I felt so helpless not being able to comfort him; as a mother does when her child is upset. I couldn't bear to go with him to the ‘needle room’ any longer. I felt like I’d let him down. Josh would go with him instead, but after a few trips even he couldn't deal with it any longer.
Flirting with the nurses
After three days of antibiotics he rapidly started getting better. He started taking milk, he was smiling, he was flirting with the nurses. At this point we knew our baby would be a-okay. We were given a room up at Treetop thanks to The Sick Children's Trust, so we started sleeping/eating/showering in shifts. We began to feel human again.
A doctor came and explained things to us. Freddie was being treated for E-coli meningitis and an E-coli urinary tract infection. He would need IV antibiotics for a month. He was placed on the waiting list to have a PICC long line fitted (a permanent cannula that would run through a vein in his arm all the way up to his heart). This PICC line was fantastic news – no cannulas that meant we could take Freddie home! We would have to make daily trips to the hospital for Fred to get his full antibiotic treatment and he would have to go to theatre to get it fitted but at least this cannula would be very very unlikely to dislodge! I could have kissed the doctor. Going home and no more cannulas!
Three hopeful days passed (and a visit from SWFC footballer Lewis Buxton) and finally it was here. After an exhausting night starving Freddie ready for his trip to theatre, the nurse came to fetch us. We signed the forms and dressed him in his very fetching theatre gown. The nurse came to escort us down to theatre, although we weren’t allowed in for the procedure I was allowed to hold him as they put him under.
Waiting for the buzzer
It was more traumatic than I thought and I made my way back feeling like I’d left my arm behind. We were given a buzzer and told it would take about 45 minutes to an hour, then we could see him. Sitting in the hospital cafe, we waited anxiously for the buzzer to buzz. Forty-five minutes passed, no buzz. One hour passed, no buzz. One hour fifteen minutes, no buzz.
We walked down to the theatre reception, Freddie wasn’t out yet. One hour thirty minutes passed, no buzz. Two hours passed, no buzz. At this point you really start to worry, what should be a simple procedure was taking what felt like years. We had no idea what was happening and no one around us was ‘in the know’.
Two hours, fifteen minutes, BUZZ! We went straight through to recovery where we could hear Freddie screaming from down the corridor. When we walked in a nurse was battling with him and Freddie was clearly winning. He was hungry, after all – and you don’t want to be around our Freddo when he’s hungry!
We got our first cuddle and a nice feed for Fred! The doctor came to see us – the PICC line is in his foot, they had trouble siting in his arm, so that's why the procedure took so long. (I should have known! At least he didn't feel it this time.) Oh, and you can take him home now.
“Best words ever. You can take him home now. We packed and left so quickly – blink – and you'd have missed us!
We are so lucky and proud
We took Freddie in every day at 3pm for a month (even Christmas day and Boxing Day, oh and that PICC line blew two days before the end, only our Fred!) and eventually his treatment ended. He was well again! Our boy had kicked meningitis where it hurts!
We are so lucky, blessed and damn proud to have him with us today.
This is why we've chosen to raise money for Meningitis now. Because every parent who takes their child to hospital with meningitis deserves to take their baby home. It would have been much worse had we not phoned in when we did. It would have been much worse had that doctor not kept him in for tests. It would have been much worse had he not got effective treatment right away. And for this we are thankful and grateful. Reading the case studies on the website where there were happy endings gave me hope.
Freddie is now doing amazingly well, even though he will have check ups for the next few years on his cognitive and physical development. He is in fantastic health and we are so so lucky he is here with us!