Padraig And Minna Roche (Parents)
Daughter Sofia Had Bacterial Meningitis In 2011
Aged 4 Weeks
Sofia Roche was born a healthy 7lb 8oz on the 12th of May 2011 in Dublin. She was born perfectly healthy and was home with us, her family, after a few days in hospital. When Sofia was 4 weeks of age, on a regular Monday, I came home from work where my wife, Sofia’s mum, was holding her. She told me that she was a bit unsettled that day and had been off her feeds, but otherwise she was not in bad form and nothing hugely different to normal. About 7:00pm, after not settling to sleep, Minna just happened to check her head and thought she had a temperature. We took her temperature and she did indeed have a little temperature of 37.6 degrees and I immediately went for the Calpol, until Minna said no, stop, don’t give it to her. She is too young.
I didn’t argue, so we left her for a little while. We called the on-call doctor and went into Drogheda cottage hospital. The doctor thought she had a throat infection and gave her some penicillin, which we gave to her at about 10:30pm. I managed to get a bottle of milk into her, but she was still unsettled and we could not get her to sleep. I sent Minna into the other bedroom to get some rest and from around 12:30am for the next 1.5 to 2 hours, Sofia would not stop crying and then the intensity started reaching a level I had never felt with our previous child Sami. I knew this cry was not normal and sent a shiver through me. So I rang back the on call doctor at about 2:30am and they said to bring her to the hospital.
After giving the doctor the symptoms, she asked did we wanted an ambulance? We said no that we would drive, thinking that it was still not a big deal. As I went to lift her from the bed, her head totally flopped back and she screamed in pain. In the car on the way to the hospital she cried every time we hit a bump on the road. I had a feeling in my gut that this was not a good sign. The hospital saw her very quickly after arriving around 4:00am and were unsure of what it was. That was until she had a seizure around 6:30am and then all hell broke loose. Doctors and nurses were coming in and running around her. She was brought to the resuscitation room as they tried franticly to get antibiotics into her.
It was only around then that the word meningitis was first mentioned. We had heard of it, but did not really know anything about it except this was really bad news. The bad news continued to come as we were told she was too unstable to get a lumbar puncture. This was followed throughout the day with news of septicaemia, brain scans and being moved to ICU. Here it was like a scene out of every hospital show you’ve ever seen. Every half an hour new specialists came and went. In a haze, our world began to crumble as each assessment that followed was worse than the previous one. The doctors, nurses and staff in Temple Street were amazing to work so well under such tremendous pressure. The doctors however did not sugar coat how sick she was and this was at times very frightening to hear.
The minutes were like hours and hours were like days. In ICU we gathered with family and waited for comforting words from the doctors that never came. We spent the night in an out of her room. She had nearly every single part of her body covered in tubes. I spent the first night counting and there were 38 machines of various shapes and sizes attached to her as the doctors tried to get a handle on her position. During the day we tried desperately to get a handle on what exactly strep B, bacterial meningitis and septicaemia were. After a few minutes of getting the information we didn’t want it anymore. The night went to morning and Sofia was holding on as best she could, but she was only 4 weeks old.
The prayers from outside started to filter through and it really helped just knowing that people were thinking and praying for you. That day we met more doctors and the update was the same. She is fighting for her life. Then we met the hospital councillor, who told us that we should meet with our 4 year old and tell him what was going on and that there is a chance his sister may not be coming home. This was without doubt one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life. After another day and night of bleeping machines, rushing doctors and frantic nurses, Sofia showed the first tiny signs of a fight back on the Thursday at lunch time. This was the first time the doctors told us she had a chance of survival, but their big concern now was brain damage.
Thursday afternoon she had an MRI. On the Friday we got the results and the most amazing miracle happened. Sofia’s scan came back 90% to 95% clear. It was not perfect, but the neuro surgeon could not believe that it was as good as it was. He said there was a chance of mild learning difficulties or epilepsy, but we did not care as we had our baby back. The progress was slow, but after a week she was moved out of ICU and into a high dependency unit, where after a month in hospital, she was finally released. We were not gone for long, as we were back to eye, ear, heart, brain and every other department in Temple Street, but this was small stuff. Her growth and development was very slow and for months we avoided developmental tests, but as she turned 21 and 22 months, she started to catch up just as the doctors suggested she might.
Today she is 2.5 years old and is bi-lingual in Finnish (her mother) and English. She is definitely the boss of the house and we are a little bit scared of her strong personality! After we got out of hospital we had no support at all and were very lost. It was not until about a year later that I found ACT for Meningitis in Galway and they are an amazing charity. They have helped us in so many ways and continue to do so today. Meningitis is one of the toughest things to have hit anyone, but especially a child and we believe without a doubt that we have had a miracle with our little daughter Sofia.