Meningitis – a Fatal Instinct

Have you ever ignored your gut instinct? I admit, this is something that I have done a lot. My gut has issued various warnings in the past, which I have not acted on as common sense usually won the mental debate. The day I brushed off ‘Mother’s Instinct’ however, threatened to be fatal.

My poorly angel & Rascal

It was a typical Saturday morning, I was rushing to get myself ready for work and my then two year old daughter, ready to stay at Grandma’s house.  As I was washing her breakfast-encrusted face, I noticed about five red spots on her cheek.  Being my usual neurotic self, I got out a glass and pressed it to her little face; the spots did not disappear.

I was slightly alarmed but my baby was not unwell, she was fully recovered from a recent chest infection and showed no other symptoms that would lead me to the conclusion of Meningitis.  I took her to Grandma’s house and mentioned the spots to her.  She agreed that they seemed nothing to worry about but promised to take my toddler to the pharmacist, just to put my mind at rest.  I left for work with a nagging but seemingly unjustified feeling of unease.

The bank where I worked back then, was always hectic on a Saturday, and as I cashed up the till at the end of my three hour shift, it occurred to me that Grandma had not called to tell me what the pharmacist had said.  No news is good news, I assumed.


Then the phone rang.

My husband was at the hospital with my little girl.  the pharmacist had suggested that Grandma took her to the A&E department, just to be on the safe side.  By the time they arrived there 20 minutes later, , my daughter had spots on her face, neck and chest.  The doctors saw her immediately and took her straight to a private room on the children’s ward. By this time, her entire body was covered in spots.  Drugs to combat Meningitis were administered while Grandma had looked on in horror.

While my Husband explained to me what was happening, I felt an icy rage overwhelm me.  The anger I felt at not being called immediately, that my husband was called long before I was battled with the crippling guilt that I had not followed my gut instinct and taken her to A&E myself as soon as I had put the glass down that morning. Most of all though, I felt so utterly fearful for my cherished daughter.

I abandoned my till and ran out the door.  With gritted teeth and tears streaming, I arrived at the hospital in law-breaking time.  As I arrived on the ward, a passing nurse knew instantly from my expression whose mother I must be and sympathetically led me to my little one.

There she was, sat on Daddy’s knee, her little arms round his neck like a vice and big frightened eyes darting round the room.  As I reached for her, I was shocked at how hot and red her soft skin was and how she had gone from a healthy-looking child to this in under four hours.

My baby & me

Her treatment lasted for five days, which we spent in isolation in that small hospital room.  It awoke me to the realisation that we had been so very lucky.  Meningitis takes hold incredibly fast and as parents, we have to act even faster!  That means not ignoring the warning symptoms or your instinct.  sometimes, our inner alert system can quite literally be a life-saver.

Children with viral Meningitis usually recover fully in about two weeks, but bacterial Meningitis proves fatal in about one in twenty cases.  The symptoms of bacterial and viral Meningitis are similar, however bacterial Meningitis tends to develop much more rapidly, and can cause serious illness within a few hours.

The Warning Signs

Symptoms of Meningitis, which are likely to appear in young children are:

– Fever
– In Meningococcal Meningitis, a distinctive rash of flat, reddish-purple lesions varying in size from pinheads to large patches that do not fade when pressed.
– Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
– Drowsiness or restlessness and high-pitched crying

Older children may, in addition, have the characteristic symptoms of Meningitis in adults, which are:

– Dislike of bright lights
– Severe headache and an extremely stiff neck, particularly when bending the head forwards.

For more information and advice, click here to visit the Meningitis Now website.

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