Holly, from Worcestershire, tells their terrifying story.
“In 2018 our first born Theo contracted bacterial (pneumococcal) meningitis at 18 weeks old. When I fell pregnant with our second little boy, meningitis was something I constantly thought and worried about throughout my whole pregnancy. I would always say to my mum, “What if it happens again? What would I do?”
“When Jasper was born all the worries went away, I had so many more things to think about and I was determined to enjoy every moment with him.
“4 weeks later my partner was back at work and it was my first day at home with both the boys, solo. A 4-week-old and a 21-month-old! That morning was hectic but everything seemed normal. But as the morning went on I noticed that Jasper wasn’t that interested in his feeds. In fact, he hadn’t woken up for one feed all morning. I tried to wake him, but he didn’t seem interested; I thought maybe he was just tired from all the screaming he’d done the day before. I left it an hour and tried again but still he wasn’t interested. This was completely unlike Jasper - since the day he was born he was a huge guzzler and loved his milk.
“Being the paranoid Mummy I was, after everything his big brother had been through, I was constantly checking his temperature throughout the day. It got to 2pm and I knew something wasn’t right. He had refused every feed I’d attempted to give him, I even tried a little bit of cool boiled water as I was concerned about him getting dehydrated. But no, he had refused that too. He didn’t have a temperature but he was so sleepy and by this point it was almost impossible to get him to open his eyes for me to even attempt to feed him.
“I rang my GP, who said I needed to bring him up for an urgent appointment. By the time we had made it to the GP, not even 5 minutes up the road, Jasper’s temperature had spiked. It had now been way over 12 hours since he’d last had any fluids, he was very lethargic and was getting increasingly hotter to touch. The GP checked him over and said she needed to speak to someone and would be back. I think, looking back, deep down I knew what was going on at this point, but I refused to accept that we were going through meningitis again. How could we? We’d been through it once and nearly lost our first baby boy. How could life be so cruel and unfair that we would have to go through it again?
“The doctor came back into the room and I could see by her face it wasn’t going to be good news. She handed me an envelope and told me I needed to get straight up to the hospital and that the children’s ward were expecting us.
“I asked her, “Is it meningitis?” She said she “couldn’t be sure, with everything Covid-related going on they just want to rule everything out”, but I know she knew. I cried, and she said, “I’m sorry you’re going through this again”.
“I rushed out and straight to the hospital. When we got there they were waiting for us, a bed ready, nurses and doctors ready and within minutes he was taken off me and taken to have his lumbar puncture.
Thorough and honest
“Because of Covid I was alone, just me and Jasper. They sat me down and took all the details of his brother Theo’s diagnosis. Asking me about all the symptoms they both had and making sure they had all the information. I can’t thank them enough for how thorough and honest with me they were.
I didn’t go with Jasper to have the lumbar puncture, I couldn’t face watching him have it done. I saw Theo have his and it’s just something I wish I never had to experience.
“When they brought him back they immediately got him onto IV antibiotics and fluids. I remember later them coming back to me, and telling me he had meningitis. I never thought anything could hurt as much as hearing it for the first time with Theo, but hearing for a second time that one of your children has meningitis is just something I can’t even explain. Every part of me sunk, I felt sick and to be honest the rest is a complete blur. I just remember thinking, “How am I going to tell his dad? Tell our families? How are we going to get through this again?”
Aware of his surroundings
“Jasper was diagnosed with viral meningitis. After a few days he started to want his feeds again, and started to become aware of his surroundings again. When we were finally allowed to come home, it hit us hard.
“I couldn’t get my head around the fact that both our babies had contracted meningitis. I had so many questions, so many whys? What ifs? How could this have happened again? What did we do wrong?
“I blamed myself a lot, I felt like I didn’t protect them enough when they were in my tummy.
“I reached out to Meningitis Now again, and shared all my concerns all my questions, and they were great. They told me about a Facebook support group, which has been a huge help for me.
“Both boys are doing fantastic, they’re both so happy, so content and are already the best of friends, they love each other so much.
“We still can’t quite believe that in the last 2 years meningitis has hit our little family twice and I don’t think you can ever get over the constant worrying and panicking, but I think it’s just something you learn to live with.
“You always think, “It won’t happen to us”, but meningitis can affect anyone, at any stage of their life.
“As parents, always trust your gut instinct - you know your babies better than anyone.”