Zachary's story

26th February 2020

Rachael thought a very small mark in the centre of her son Zachary’s head was a birthmark, but when the two-month-old stopped feeding well and developed a temperature just after Christmas she called 111

Zachary pneumococcal bacterial meningitis case study

Zachary was critically ill with pneumococcal meningitis and it was scary how quickly he went downhill. He was rushed to hospital and thankfully is now on the road to recovery. Rachael, from Norwich, tells their story here.

“On 28 December 2019 our son Zachary, who was just over two months old, didn't sleep very well through the night. He was sick and during the following day starting developing a temperature. He had been okay in himself before this.

“A call to 111 felt needed and a doctor called back very promptly. As Zachary was five weeks premature the doctor believed a paramedic was required. The paramedic assessed him and could hear a rattle on his lung and sent us straight to the Norfolk and Norwich A&E Department.

“Even at this point things didn't seem too serious. We presumed maybe some antibiotics and a day or two in hospital.

Bruise on forehead

“Once in the Child Assessment Unit a doctor commented on a ‘bruise’ on Zachary's forehead, something which we had seen develop over the last few weeks. We believed it was a birthmark. This, however, led to a lumbar puncture, with cloudy fluid and a CT scan followed. We were told the images would likely be sent to Addenbrookes Hospital for advice, and that we may possibly be sent there.

“The mood quickly changed as the CT scan showed a very large abscess on the brain and we were told Zachary was critically ill. Once he was stable enough we were transferred to Addenbrookes PICU.

“He was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and an abscess on the brain.

Went downhill quickly

“He went downhill very quickly. They immediately drained 140ml from the abscess to relieve the pressure in his head and during the first week he had three seizures, a stroke and a blood transfusion due to the infection.

“At the end of the first week we were told he wasn't responding to the antibiotics and there was nothing else they could do for him.

“Somehow, over the next few days, he started to respond to the antibiotics and by the end of the following week the infection was starting to reduce.

‘Zachary the miracle baby’

“As the infection reduced it became evident that the meningitis had left scarring on the membranes, so the brain fluid was unable to drain efficiently. His head was tapped on three occasions to draw off the fluid and when the infection had reduced further he had an operation for a temporary external ventricular drain. Then, just under two weeks after that, he had further surgery for a shunt.

“Zachary was discharged on Valentine’s Day, seven weeks after being admitted. He is still on medication, and has to go to the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital regularly for antibiotics. He will also have many reviews back at Addenbrookes.

“He has been described by doctors since, as ‘Zachary the miracle baby’.”

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