Our daughter Teagan was nine days old when she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She was born healthy and came home healthy.
On Easter Sunday 1999 she became ill. She slept almost all night, was very lethargic and hard to feed. I took her to our local GP who was concerned that she was so lethargic and was also concerned about the slight temperature Teagan had. Our GP strongly suggested we take Teagan, as soon as possible, to see a peadiatrician at a specialist children’s hospital. The GP said it was probably nothing to worry about but it was better to err on the safe side and have Teagan checked by a specialist.
I can only thank the GP for her action and that she did not dismiss my concern and consider me an overprotective mother. I dropped in at home, on my way to the hospital, to discuss the GP’s concerns with my husband. My husband packed my bag, loaded us in the car and sent us to the hospital with a letter from the GP. My husband and three year old son stayed home whilst Teagan and I headed into the hospital. Teagan was admitted to Neo-natal intensive care, within an hour of arriving at the hospital.
It was such a dramatic and life changing day. The doctors were fantastic and acted very quickly. Teagan had gone from a lethargic baby to a ‘rag doll’ in a matter of a couple of hours. When the doctors performed the lumbar puncture, I was the one who cried! Teagan was too sick and her temperature began to spike over 40 degrees. I had to ring my husband and say, “Get here quick, there is something really wrong with our baby”. My husband knew just how dreadful the situation could be, as he had meningitis when he was 6 years old. He knew Teagan would be very ill and in pain.
It took three days to grow bacteria from the sample of fluid taken during Teagan’s lumbar puncture. The doctors were very surprised when the results indicated it was Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Hib) meningitis. This disease has almost been eradicated due to childhood vaccination. However Teagan was only a few days old when she became ill and had not been vaccinated. At some point in her first nine days of life, she had been exposed to the bacteria and developed the infection.
My husband joined me at the hospital. Teagan began to make good progress after three days in Neo-natal Intensive care. My husband and I were exhausted both physically and emotionally, however things where looking up and Teagan was moved into a ward. Our three year old son was staying at his Grandma’s, and my husband and I still had a small farm to run whilst all this was happening. My husband returned home to the farm to find local’s chasing stray wild cattle up and down our road in the dark. Luckily the cattle didn’t end up in our property as we were rarely at home for the next two weeks.
The Infectious Disease doctors asked us many questions. They asked us who we were in contact with, before Teagan became ill. The doctors were unable to find a source of the infection as we all tested negative for the bacteria and our son had been vaccinated. We all received antibiotics. We had to explain to our three year old son that for a couple of days he would have orange medicine and that it would make his tears, urine and sweat turn an orange colour.
After a week in hospital Teagan was able to start wearing clothes as her temperature had subsided. In the second week she was able to have blankets. One of the doctors suggested ‘Hospital in the Home.’ I could have kissed him!! For the next two weeks of Teagan’s treatment, we were able to stay home on the farm. A nurse from the hospital visited us each lunch time to administer Teagan’s antibiotics and check on Teagan. Our kitchen became our hospital ward. We still had to attend the hospital every week, but what a God send! No more sleeping in a small room, no more night walks across the hospital! Home once more as a family again.
Teagan is now a very healthy, cheeky five year old, doing well at school, loving farm life. I feel we have been on a huge roller coaster ride and it is very difficult when Teagan is sick not to over react and worry.
Teagan had many medical tests including hearing tests, eye/vision checks, and developmental checks. Everything seems to be ok. The only after effect that we attribute to the meningitis is the headaches and migraines that Teagan experiences. We try and minimize the affect of these problems by ensuring Teagan gets plenty of rest and has a good diet and healthy lifestyle.
We are so fortunate that we caught the disease early before lasting damage was caused. We are also fortunate that our local GP and the doctors from the children’s hospital where on the ball and diagnosed the disease quickly and provided excellent care for Teagan and still do. We had great support from our friends and family. Neighbours fed our animals, friends took care of our son when we had to go into the city to attend medical appointments and checks. Our local GP was always only a phone call away when we had any problems. Our family came and helped with the farm and the house work and helped us keep our sanity.