A Brush with Meningitis

When Destructo-Girl was 5 weeks old, she had a slight fever. Just a little over 38C and if she’d been over 2 months old I’d have just given her a bit of Calpol. But she wasn’t, and I didn’t like to break the rules with a teeny baby so I phoned the out of hours GP service.

They asked if there looked like there was any reason for the fever, for which I said no, there wasn’t. How long? About four or five hours (I wasn’t even sure if I was wasting their time at this point because the high temperature was low really…) They said to come in so they could look at her, but with no obvious sign there was probably nothing they could do.

I misunderstood that, I thought they meant that she was fine and we’d be sent home again. But, no, we were sent off to A&E with a letter to get us seen by the paediatricians straight away. I was still thinking that it was just so a specialist could prescribe Calpol!

Fortunately, I have lovely in-laws so not only was my mother-in-law at our house with a sleeping MG, but father-in-law was driving me, DH and baby DG around (it was a Friday night and not only could I not drive but DH had drunk a pint or two after work so was over the limit.)

We were seen immediately and they took her temperature, kept pressing on her skin, tried to get a urine sample to test for infection (5 week olds don’t wee on demand!), and even as they were taking a lumber puncture (a needle in the spine of my teeny 5 week old :cry:) I still thought we were going to be sent home…

It was at the point where we were taken to a ward in the Children’s Hospital that I asked “Is she being admitted?” It all seemed to happen so quickly that I was being dense, I didn’t even twig when they kept putting pressure on her skin to check for the rash. It was about 1am at this point and DH was told to go home with FIL while I stayed with DG. At some point the word meningitis was mentioned, but I didn’t even realise it was serious until I looked it up.

We were lucky. DG had a type of viral meningitis. In fact, she didn’t need any of the antibiotics or antivirals that she was pumped with for 5 days; or to be used as a pin-cushion as her tiny veins failed on five ocassions and it took an hour of trying and re-trying each time to get a new canula in. On the fourth attempt I couldn’t bear to watch any more, but as I sat in the ward I could still hear the screams so I had to go to her and hold her again. I shouldn’t have left her at all 😦

A break between drugs. My teeny pin-cushion (canula had been on arms then feet...)

But I cannot regret a moment of how she was treated because until the detailed results of the lumbar puncture came back (which is what took 5 days) the type of meningitis was unknown and if it had been bacterial and untreated she could have had severe brain damage or died.

We were lucky. DG probably would have been fine even if we hadn’t gone to the doctor, although she did need something to take the fever down. But I learnt something that new parents don’t seem to be told. Newborn babies (under 8-12 weeks) should never have a fever. If they do, take them straight to a GP.

For decent advice about meningitis, go to the Meningitis Trust website. My family’s brush with meningitis was fortunately minor but that isn’t always the case and I now tell all of my new-parent-to-be friends to be alert for fever in newborns. Destructo-Girl had no other symptoms, but she still had meningitis. Please pass the word to all parents of newborns you know too. Thank-you.

6 responses to “A Brush with Meningitis

  1. Poor little love! That’s horrendous! I wouldn’t have known about the fever thing either, I’ve never heard that before. Thanks for bit of info. I’m so glad it didn’t get any more serious and that your daughter was ok. Scary stuff!

    • Thank-you. I may not be completely accurate, it may be a fever with no obvious reason – what’s obvious with a newborn?! – but we’re not the only family we know to have experienced this. Considering what some parents go though, I consider us very lucky. And little one doesn’t remember a thing of course, but she had a fear of people touching her hands/feet for a few weeks after 😦

  2. Aw…at least hopefully, because she was so young, the after effects of the trauma will fade. A very close shave that one!

  3. claravulliamy

    My mouth went dry with the horror of it, reading your post. She looks so small and vulnerable lying there – but now so VERY full of beans by all accounts! This parenting thing is a bit of a white-knucke-ride, isn’t it??

  4. Wow! What an incredible experience your family has been through. My daughter had her finger tip cut off, and that was a really scary time for me, but this must have been much worse. So glad to hear things were caught in time and she is better.

  5. Wow! I didn’t know that either! Must have been horrific watching them trying to find a vein bless her. I can imagine it was a blur at the time but scary when you got time to think about it all later. I’m sharing this on Facebook xxx

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