We were living in the UK, it was the 10th of January 2011 and I†received a phone call at 3pm from...
Kardas was an active, healthy seven year old when he contracted meninigococcal septicaemia in 2003. The importance of trusting your instincts and seeking early medical assistance, in person, is highlighted in Kardas' harrowing experience, as told by his mother, Tash.
One Friday morning Kardas woke up complaining of feeling sick. I was sceptical at first – this was the second Friday in a row, and I thought he might have been avoiding something at school.
However, looking at my son I could tell he was actually very ill. Throughout the morning he was lethargic, slept longer than usual and actually wet himself because he couldn’t get up to go to the toilet. He complained of having a sore head and body, and couldn’t bare light.
By midday, I rang our local surgery. The nurse told me that there had been a bad virus going around, and I shouldn’t worry. Not wanting to sound paranoid, I took her advice on board and hung up.
Kardas’ conditioned worsened during the afternoon - he couldn’t keep fluids down and his temperature shot up. Trying to cool him down, I noticed a purple blotchy rash on his lower back. It wasn’t on the surface of the skin, like chicken pox, but spreading on the inside of his body.
It was around 3pm and I frantically contacted the surgery again. I informed the same nurse about Kardas’ worsening condition and rash, but again was told not to worry and that the rash was ‘probably from heat’.
My instinct told me she was wrong, but who was I to question a medical professional?
By 6pm the purple blotchy rash had spread over most of his body.
Incomprehensively, I remember Kardas suddenly sitting upright on the couch, opening his eyes and staring blankly at the front door as his koro (my father-in-law) walked in from work. He took one look at Kardas and told us to ring the family healer (Maori doctor). We did, and were told without hesitation that it was meningitis.
I wrapped him up and went straight to the after-hours on call doctor. They took one look at Kardas and immediately called an ambulance.
Lying on the examination table his body started to arch. The doctor explained it was the poison in his body spreading, and he quickly injected my son with medication to stop it from spreading further.
Before the ambulance arrived I was asked many questions. How long had he been sick? Why didn't I get him to the doctor? I explained the conversations with the nurse and was told if I’d left it any longer, a matter of minutes, we would have lost my son.
The ambulance took us straight to Tokoroa Hospital, where the duty doctor called all available staff to Kardas’s bedside to look at the rash before starting to work on him. I can only imagine that some of them had never seen this rash before. I was asked many of the same questions again, but with more detail. I can't recall how long it was before we were transferred to Waikato Hospital, but on the way over Kardas’ body arched again.
I felt scared, guilty and incompetent – all at the same time.
Kardas was incoherent and not responding to doctors when we arrived. It wasn’t until they put a catheter in that he opened his eyes and screamed. The doctors assured me that this was a good sign.
I cried and laughed, more relieved than anything.
Kardas was kept in isolation for treatment and observation until cleared to go to a ward. He was in hospital for about four days, and afterwards a nurse came out to administer medication and monitor his recovery at home. Our entire family were given medicine to make sure we did not get sick as well.
Kardas is now 18 and a typical sports-mad kiwi boy. However, out of my five children he has been the most sickly and accident prone. I believe his immune system was badly affected by the disease. When he gets sick, he gets really sick.
I’m grateful that Kardas has no recollection of being sick. We came so close to losing him, and my heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
If you think your child is sick, please don't hesitate to seek help in person or to questions medical advice. Parents know their children better than anyone, and a mother's instinct is very strong. Feeling paranoid is insignificant compared to nearly losing a child.
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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