Phoebe P's story

2nd December 2019

Charlotte's daughter Phoebe was fine on Friday night. But by Saturday morning she was complaining that she didn’t feel well – and things started to go downhill from here. Charlotte, from Maidstone in Kent, describes what happened next

Phoebe's bacterial meningitis case study

“My three-year-old daughter was absolutely fine Friday evening, playful, healthy and happy. But on Saturday morning I woke to her approaching my bedroom crying and saying she didn’t feel very well."

"It was the type of cry where you know a child is genuine, not just moaning. She explained she had a sore tummy and a sore head, then she vomited. Phoebe proceeded to sleep for most of the day, we put it down to her feeling rough and sleeping it off. She showed good recovery at midday and we thought the ‘bug’ was gone, but then back to sleeping and complaining of sore head and tummy. Temperature was high and not coming down much with Calpol. She regularly gets a very raised temperature for even the most minor of ailments."

“The following day she continued to complain of headaches, sore neck and became slightly sensitive to light (asking for lights to be turned off) and all to be quiet. Her temperature had bouts of normality without medication, although she vomited a couple of times. Again, she made a good ‘recovery’ midday until early evening. She even begged us to take her to the park, which we did. We were so thrilled to see her feeling better. She played on the slide but was a bit reluctant to run around and soon wanted to go home."

“On arriving home, Phoebe seemed fatigued and just wanted to watch the iPad. We took this as normal but then she said she just wanted to go to her bed (VERY unusual, we normally fight her into bed). She wanted complete darkness and complained of headaches and neck pains."

“In bed her temperature was 39.4. More Calpol given but her temperature just continued to rise and rise - yet her hands and feet were suddenly stone cold. We put it down to having been to the park. We tried our best to warm them but they just would not thaw out, whilst her body was on fire and she was falling asleep early evening without having eaten or drunk anything all day."

“That was enough for me, I was heading for A&E but my husband calmed me. Urged me to call 111 - this gave an auto American male voice saying the service was unavailable. We checked and rechecked Google, but the only thing these symptoms brought up was meningitis. We gave in to the fear and packed a bag for A&E."

“Within minutes, an earlier text to a friend who is a nurse and my niece who is a paramedic received a response - both stating we needed to get to A&E. She was seen at 7pm, finger prick, urine sample, temperature, heart rate, etc. She kept falling asleep and was so grumpy."

“They weren’t happy with what they saw. Maidstone A&E contacted the paediatricians at Tonbridge Wells hospital, who wanted to see her. Prior to us going she needed bloods and a cannula which she refused to have. Four of us had to hold her down whilst she screamed things like “why are you doing this to me Mummy”, “help”, “please, please stop”. I sobbed.

“At midnight, after a 40 minute drive to another hospital, I was told Phoebe’s blood sample had an infection count (CRP) of 217 (should be around zero). I was so, so naive, I honestly thought they were just being thorough but I would be going home with a bottle of banana-flavoured antibiotics for a minor bug."

Reality set in at that point

“My husband could not come to the hospital as our oldest daughter had contracted a 24-hour sickness and vomiting bug. Possibly related, who knows. We were admitted and told she was being treated for bacterial meningitis and needed to have a lumbar puncture tomorrow. IV antibiotics were given at 3am. She was sick as a dog all over the bed, screaming that her tummy was sore. Her temperature rose so high, they didn’t tell me what it was, but I have never felt anyone so hot in my life."

“By the morning Phoebe was like another child. Sat up in bed, asking for food. Her dad and sister arrived and she was back to fighting with her within minutes. The consultant decided that she had responded well to the IV that they needn't progress with the lumbar puncture as they would need to sedate her. The cultivated samples would be with us the next day which would give some indication. They would monitor and revisit if needed."

“She got better and better and they released us at 6pm on the Monday but had to return for IV medication every 24 hours for 5 days. On day 4 her infection count had reduced to (32). She was making huge progress but her fear of needles never improved!"

“The labs lost her blood sample that was sent for cultivation and there was no way we or they wanted to do a lumbar puncture when she was getting so much better. They concluded ‘probable meningitis’. Following the IV treatment she was prescribed oral antibiotics for a further five days."

“Phoebe was discharged, this was only today. It is now 22:51, her body clock is up the wall but she is sat next to me as I type putting princess stickers on me as plasters and pretending to give me injections. Reliving her experience. She randomly complains of sore toes, something we will need to monitor - but we were so lucky. I know we were closer to death than I care to think about but I am so proud of her for what she has been through. So proud of myself for trusting my instinct that things weren’t right and seeking help.”

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