Sheila Peet

Meningococcal disease at 19

Meningococcal disease

Our 19-year-old son had taken the day off work as he was feeling unwell. It was late January 1994.

Kevin said he thought he might be getting the flu as his limbs ached and he felt very tired. When I returned from work I was expecting to see him sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, however, he was still in bed. I was very concerned as his hands and feet were extremely cold. He had been sick and he had stomach pains.

My knowledge then of meningitis was how quickly it strikes, aversion to bright lights, stiff neck and a red rash, also headaches. At this point Kevin had only the headache and aching limbs. In the back of my mind was a newspaper article I had read how a teenage girl had gone to bed with 'vague' symptoms and meningitis was the cause of her death as she slept. An horrific story that was always in my memory.

I kept getting him to bend his chin to his chest, look at lights, check for a rash. He kept saying "look mum I can bend my neck down". However, instinct told me not to leave him alone that night, even though the classic symptoms were not showing at this time. He became drowsy so I telephoned the doctor on call and they said they would make a call later. I emphasised I thought he needed to be examined.

Within an hour I noticed a red/purple rash on Kevin's wrist and ankles. I dialled 999 for an ambulance, which arrived very quickly. The paramedics were very professional and told Tom and I they were taking Kevin to Wexham Park Hospital, Slough. We telephoned our daughter Tracey and she met us at the hospital.

I have to add at this point the doctors and nurses in A&E never left Kevin's side and each step of his treatment was fully explained to Tom and myself. They had to do a lumbar puncture to see if it was meningitis, and if so, what strain. It was confirmed as one of the worst - meningococcal septicaemia.

The shock of seeing Kevin wired to a ventilator and many other monitors was equal to seeing how the meningitis rash had spread over his body. He was now unconscious and the doctors explained his organs were shutting down and he needed an intensive care bed urgently.

They explained they did not want to transfer him to another hospital as he was seriously ill. A bed was opened up for Kevin in ITU Wexham Park and I feel sure the time saved treating him so quickly was a contributing factor to Kevin's recovery in the weeks to follow.

He was in a coma for nearly a week. During that time his dad Tom, sister Tracey and I would sit talking to him as we were told by ITU staff in many cases hearing is not completely lost. He was given antibiotics to kill the septicaemia.

When he regained consciousness it was such a wonderful feeling to know your child was alive. There were still days ahead in hospital and at home that would be very challenging. The septicaemia had affected the blood vessels in his legs and he was suffering dreadful headaches.

He was one of the lucky ones to make a full recovery. It must have taken six months or more to return to 'normal' life. We certainly do not take health for granted anymore and will always be indebted to all those involved in Kevin's recovery.