Ava contracted Bacterial meningitis at birth and Viral meningitis when she was only 5years old
On August 11th, 2007 my daughter Ava arrived much earlier then expected, she was 34 weeks. As I had experienced premature labour, I was already in hospital for 10 days when I required an emergency section. She was born a good weight, 5lbs 13oz. and as all preemies, routinely admitted to NICU for observation and some antibiotics. I was breast feeding and found it difficult to feed her. She seemed to lack energy and did not latch on as I remembered- I thought it must be me. I thought I was just out of practice with feeding a newborn.
After a day or two, the nurses were not happy with her colour and thought she was not doing well. I knew there was something not right, but thought I was just being silly. They told us they were going to run some more tests.
We got called at home on a Friday morning(we had seen her the night before and I was certain at this stage, something had been missed)- I could never have imagined the diagnosis we were given….Bacterial meningitis.
I will never forget the horror to this day that I felt when we were told our tiny baby was a very sick little girl. My husband and I were told that if she made it through 48 hours she had a chance. She was isolated, incubated, ventilated, put on a severe course of antibiotics and sedated. The possibilities were outlined to us, the temperature, the potential brain swelling and its associated hazards. They let us hold her before they put her in the incubator, its then we both realised that they were allowing us to hold her in case it was for the last time. I found the only way I could deal with it, was one step at a time.
Ava was tough and fought hard, she made it from Friday to Monday with intensive and outstanding care from the NICU nurses and doctors at St. Munchins in Limerick. It was a terrible weekend, we were terrified to move from her side. However, by Monday morning Ava had, miraculously and against all odds, pulled through.
She had some issues as a young baby, severe colic and a gut blockage which they diagnosed as Dyskinesia. This was related to the meningitis as the gut had forgotten how to work. She was diagnosed with Asthma at around 23 months, had her tonsils and adenoids out at aged 4. She had been on constant antibiotics but upon extraction, both the Adenoids and Tonsils were completely infected. She has over the years had multiple admissions with the Asthma, she also gets chest infections, depending on what bug is going around.
When she was 5, Ava came into my room one morning complaining of a really bad pain in her head. A stoic child, for her to complain so strenuously was unusual. I could see instantly that she had a very high temperature, no visible rash but said the light hurt her eyes. She had a funny colour on her face, almost like her freckles standing out in contrast to the rest of her face. When I checked her eyes, one pupil was big and much more dilated then the other. By the time I had an appointment made at the doctor she was already lethargic. The doctor immediately referred to hospital which terrifyingly, is a long journey from rural Ireland, 130 kms one way. I knew it wasn’t ordinary sickness.
Upon review in the emergency room at the hospital, they started a line and immediately began treating her for Meningitis as her bloods weren’t good. They did a Lumbar Puncture resulting after 48 hours in a diagnosis of Viral Meningitis. Since it’s not treatable with antibiotics, we were sent home on the 3rd day with instructions to manage the temperature and keep her hydrated.
After a few days at home she again worsened….vomiting, rigor and terrible temperature and completely lethargic. She had started screaming crying when she stood up and her joints had swelled. I called the Doctor who told me to go straight back to hospital with her. I rushed her back to hospital. She was re admitted to hospital as she needed to be on an I.V. She had stopped speaking and was completely lethargic. Another lumbar puncture was performed. Tests on the CSF showed progressive results, combined with her symptoms which were very severe, as a precaution, she was put on some heavy duty antibiotics. Further cultures were run. It was Viral. She was not released on this occasion until she was well and there was improvement her final LP results.
Having run the gauntlet MWRH Limerick one time too many for my liking. Once things settled a bit, I had Ava tested to as I was terrified she might have a compromised immune system. Thankfully, she didn’t. She was just unlucky to get struck with two different forms of the same dreadful disease. Bacterial and Viral. Despite my pleas for assurances, there are also no guarantees that she won’t get it again. We have gotten her all her immunizations to minimize her risks. But the thought of a reoccurrence has made me hyper vigilant. Needless to say, Ava ended up in hospital last year with double pneumonia, we were there for nearly two weeks. She has gone through the mill a few times. She has seen quite a few hospitals and has openly wondered how Momma can get lost on the way to Crumlin, Momma can! She is thank God a stubborn child who does not give up easily.
We count ourselves very lucky, we have a beautiful 8 year old daughter. Ava enjoys most all of the things that other 8 year olds do. She loves to swim which we encourage. She makes her Communion this year with the rest of her class. She is bright, articulate, creative and just loves music and life.
My main advice is ….Trust your instincts. ACT first, its so important. Its imperative that they get medical attention… .quickly. Ava never had a rash, for either strain so that’s not the only sign. Trust yourself.