What started as a common childhood virus quickly turned into a life threatening case of...
Matthew was three and a half when he contracted suspected bacterial meningitis in 2009. While ongoing symptoms still affect Matthew’s quality of life, he is lucky to be alive thanks to the fast diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease. This is Matthew’s story, as told by his mother, Cheralyn.
Matthew came home from day care on a Thursday afternoon and fell asleep on the sofa; this was unusual and I just put it down to him being tired.
I became concerned on Friday morning when he started showing some of the symptoms of meningitis – a sore neck, difficulty looking at his toes or lights and a temperature – and made an urgent doctor’s appointment. However he quickly became lethargic, and upon calling the doctor again for advice, a trainee doctor told me to take him to the hospital immediately.
My husband took us straight to the hospital. By the time we got there Matthew was ‘floppy’, had a very high temperature, couldn’t bear to look at light and a rash had started appearing.
The doctors immediately put Matthew on antibiotics. He was moved into isolation and when the preliminary blood test came back indicating meningitis he was whisked away for a lumber puncture. He was crying and saying it hurt but clearly had no energy to fight it.
In the hospital Matthew had several seizures. During the worst one the left side of his face collapsed – it was probably only a few minutes before he came round, but it seemed like a lifetime. The hardest part was when it took him ages to recognise me when they asked ‘where is your Mummy?’ His temperature was so high, he started hallucinating – all I could do was sit him on my lap and pretend to bat away the creepy crawlies that he could see. I felt helpless.
We were constantly unsure whether Matthew was going to make it. By the fifth day he still couldn’t sit up or hold a small cup of water. But by the seventh day we were allowed to take him home. He was out of danger! I was just so happy to have him back.
Matthew’s recovery time at home was very slow. He had no energy and couldn’t walk anywhere for any length of time. We started him back at day care several weeks after being out of hospital - just for a small amount of time whilst he got his strength back.
All of the medical staff involved were amazing – their quick action saved Matthew’s life. My GP always remarks that if we had left it just a few hours later he would not be here.
We still go to the hospital for follow up visits. Matthew suffers from migraines now and is on daily medication which makes him tired and grumpy – he looks ill with dark eyes. He has also been referred to an eye hospital as he has a problem with the eye that collapsed during the big seizure in hospital.
Unfortunately there is also some ignorance about the after effects and continued suffering long after the disease had gone, which we have struggled with.
Overall, Matthew is doing well. I do have my son back – he has a few issues but I consider these minor compared to what could have been. He was so brave. We certainly have an extra special bond now.
Disclaimer - The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand promotes the prevention, control and awareness of meningitis. It is not a professional medical authority. The text on this website provides general information about meningitis and septicaemia, not medical advice. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of these diseases. Please consult your doctor to discuss the information or if you are concerned someone may be ill.
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