Mum Cat mentally ticked off all Grace’s symptoms, which also included blue lips, leg pain, difficulty walking, confusion and a blanching rash, thinking how similar they were to meningitis, at which point panic set in.
“On 27th December we'd had a very busy day spending Grace and her big sister Molly's (aged 11 at the time) Christmas money in the sales. Then we'd gone out for a meal with family.
“Grace was full of beans and went to bed that night the same as any other night. However, at 5am the next morning she came into mine and her dad’s bedroom and vomited all over the floor. I cleaned her up and put her back to bed. Then she vomited again when I got up to go to work (I work as a district nurse). Luckily her dad was off work with it being Christmas so I went off to work as usual, knowing she'd be well cared for.
“I had regularly updates from my husband as the day went on, but by early afternoon he said she really wasn't well at all. Instinctively I decided to leave work early and went home to be with my poorly girl.
Panic sets in
“We'd run out of Calpol, so my husband popped out to get some more and while he was gone I mentally started ticking off all of Grace's symptoms thinking how similar they were to meningitis.
“At that moment panic set in and I rang my husband to tell him to come home straight away, but unfortunately he'd left his phone at home. As I was about to call for an ambulance he arrived back so we decided the quickest option would be to take her to A&E ourselves.
“Once at the hospital we were seen fairly quickly by a triage nurse and I pointed out that her symptoms appeared similar to meningitis. This did not seem to faze her and we were sent back into the very busy waiting room full of children, who probably had symptoms quite similar to Grace's (there was lots of norovirus around at the time).
“The doctor who we saw was very thorough in checking her over and checked her for neck pain and dislike of bright lights but she passed these tests. Grace had started to develop a rash but it was not your typical meningitis type rash, as it was blanching. The doctor seemed unsure about the rash and called the triage nurse back in to get another opinion. The nurse dismissed the rash (without thoroughly checking it in my opinion) and Grace was deemed fit enough to go home (how I wish I had been more adamant about my concerns).
Rushed back to hospital
“Once back home Grace appeared to become more unwell and on my final check before I went to bed I discovered a purple non-blanching rash to her feet. We rushed her back to hospital and told the receptionist we suspected meningitis and were told to take a seat. In this time Grace's condition had nosedived and she lay in my arms barely conscious until she passed out.
“I began crying and a parent in the waiting room quickly went to fetch a doctor. When the doctor came I took off Grace's slipper to show him the rash and from then on it was all systems go. She was quickly taken to PICU and we were kept waiting in a room for what seemed like hours until they managed to stabilise her.
“For the next four days she was on a ventilator until they felt she was well enough to wean her off it but this was actually sooner than they thought as Grace awoke suddenly and tried to rip the ventilator out. It took six doctors and nurses to try and hold her down!
Thank my lucky stars
“Apart from that dreadful first night when we didn't know if our beautiful girl would survive, I was terrified waiting to see if she'd have any lasting effects, but I was swiftly reassured as upon waking her favourite song was on the radio. I asked her what song she could hear and when she replied 'Katy Perry' I knew she was going to be okay. She spent the next few days on a ward having IV antibiotics before she was discharged home.
“I thank my lucky stars every day that Grace was one of the lucky ones and made a full recovery and we hope that the Meningitis B vaccine is soon put onto the child immunisation programme so other families are spared this terrible disease.
“I found out about Meningitis Now through google and the information on its website and what to expect following the disease was a huge source of help and support. It is such an important charity, which is why I am running the London Marathon in 2015 to raise as much money as I can to support them and their lifesaving and life-changing work.”