My Sister Ashleigh
“Isn’t she the picture of health!” My great grandad says about my sister Ashleigh. That very same day Ashleigh began to develop symptoms of Pneumococcal Meningtis. She was only 6 months of age. Ashleigh was a gorgeous new born whom everyone in her family loved, however this gorgeous girl was also becoming an innocent victim to a deadly disease.
It was Boxing Day 1989 and my family and I were attending our friend’s outdoor party. Ashleigh was the star of the day. She had her first swim in a pool and had successfully achieved everyone’s attention for the entire time. The night was getting late and Ashleigh was getting tired so we went home. The next morning Ashleigh wasn’t acting herself. She was restless, whinging and had a high temperature that wouldn’t decrease. My Mum and Dad, being young parents at the time, took Ashleigh to the doctor where she was diagnosed with having a Viral Infection. The doctor instructed Mum to take Ashleigh home and give her Panadol every 3 hours and that if her temperature hadn’t dropped by the next morning to bring her back. This she did, but things only became worse.
By the next morning Ashleigh’s temperature hadn’t decreased and Mum and Dad were going to take her back to the clinic when they received a telephone call from their doctor asking them to bring Ashleigh back down to the clinic to be reassessed.
When Mum, Ashleigh and I arrived at the clinic we were taken straight through where Ashleigh was reassessed. The Doctor told Mum that he thought that her youngest daughter had Meningitis and that Mum should take her straight to Princess Margaret hospital without dropping me off anywhere. He said he would contact the hospital and Dad to tell them what was happening.
Mum had never had to go to PMH before and was very scared for her child’s wellbeing. She was driving at 120km/h along the highway just hoping to be picked up by the police so that she could ask for directions. Fortunately, she took a lucky turn that took her directly to the Hospital’s Emergency Area. Waiting for her at the entrance were doctors ready to do many tests on Ashleigh to confirm the diagnosed illness.
Dad arrived at the Hospital shortly after we arrived. The first thing that he heard when he walked into the Hospital was a chilling cry from a young child. Little did he know that he was about to burst into tears when he heard that that child was his.
Ashleigh had been taken for a Cat Scan and a Lumbar Puncture which confirmed the fact that Ashleigh had Pneumococcal Meningitis. The next two weeks Ashleigh was in the Intensive Care Unit at Princess Margaret Hospital. Everyone in my family and the doctors were unsure whether or not Ashleigh was going to survive.
The first few days in Hospital were the worst days and Ashleigh’s condition was very serious. She was linked up to a ventilator and an IV drip. She was having fits, flexing to pain and her fontanelle was full and pounding. Her pupils were not equal. Her right eye wasn’t reacting to light and her left eye was sluggish, both twitching. To add another complication her heartbeat was 210 beats per minute at the highest. After her first 4 days in the hospital these symptoms slowly progressed back to being normal.
Once the symptoms of Pneumococcal Meningitis had faded away the life long after effects became noticeable.
Doctors quote giving my parents hope and strength
Ashleigh is about to enter her teenage years, which won’t be the same as thousands of other children who will be doing the same. When she left hospital she was blind, which after 18 months she was fortunate to get back. As a result to her contracting Pneumococcal Meningitis Ashleigh developed Cerebal Palsy, Epilepsy that has to be controlled by 2 different types of medicines. She also needs a back brace to help with her currently 98 degree Scoliosis, Splints to help her walk on her feet properly, a wheelchair that helps to transport her and on top of all of this Ashleigh’s profoundly deaf and hasn’t spoken a word in her life. Even with all these disabilities, she is today, a happy healthy young lady.
I have grown up with Ashleigh being my little sister whom I loved and cared for with all my heart. Even though at the time I may have been only 3 and not really understood what was happening to my sister, I have learnt many things that others my age haven’t learnt yet. Out of something negative, that in our case changed my family’s life drastically, you must always look for a positive. You must never ever lose faith and never give up. If you give up you’re the one that loses, if you keep fighting for the best you will win. Ashleigh has never given up.