The most terrifying day of my life

The most terrifying day of my life

Mrs Maree Selwood, mother of West Coast Eagles’ champion and meningitis survivor Adam Selwood.

As I remember it, the morning of December 1, 1986, started like any other day in the busy life of a mother with two-year-old twins. We were babysitting a friend’s child in the morning, so we went outside to play in the sandpit and run around the backyard playing with balls etc. 

Adam was quite whingey and just wanted my attention and to be carried around; he also complained of a sore mouth which didn’t concern me as I thought it was his two-year-old teeth coming through so I treated him with Bonjela.

The little boy we were babysitting was picked up around midday, so I thought the best thing was to feed the boys (Adam and Troy) and put them to bed. Adam wasn’t interested in eating anything.

I was toilet training the boys so while I was in the toilet with Troy I left Adam sitting in the hallway where I could see him. 

He vomited up a clear liquid and was very drowsy, but I cannot remember him having a temperature at this time.  I put the boys to bed and checked on them regularly during their nap, but what I didn’t realise at the time was that Adam was in the same position and unconscious.

Adam was burning up and I could feel the heat coming from his body

 I went to wake the boys at 4pm as I thought I would never get them back to bed that night if I let them sleep any longer. Adam he was burning up and I could feel the heat coming from his body before I even touched him.

I immediately grabbed him out of bed, he arched his back and was as stiff as a board and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. I was always a very controlled person and never panicked – but not this time. I was so scared because I didn’t know what was happening.

 I raced to the next door neighbour carrying Adam in my arms. As soon as she saw him it was like a whirlwind, we threw her three kids and Troy into her car and I jumped in the front with Adam.

As we were driving we were both hitting him on the chest trying to get some sort of a response – but nothing. He was unconscious and that was never going to happen.

My neighbour stopped at the first doctor’s surgery we came too and thank God he (Dr Dennis O’Connor) just happened to be standing in the reception area when I walked in.

I said: “I think he’s dead”.

The doctor grabbed him out of my arms and took him straight to his medical room whilst instructing his receptionist to call an ambulance.  I really don’t know what happened at the surgery as I was so upset, but I can remember asking questions as to what could be wrong with him. I cannot remember how long it took for the ambulance to arrive but my neighbour told me it wasn’t very long.

When we arrived at the Bendigo Base Hospital emergency department Adam was attended to straight away; nurses came from everywhere and started hooking him up to drips, monitors etc on his tiny lifeless body. 

By this time Adam’s dad Bryce had arrived.  I was asked heaps of questions such as “Could have he drank poison?”,  “Could he have been bitten by something?” “How long has he been like this?” etc etc.

We heard this high pitched scream come from the room; it broke my heart

I felt useless as I couldn’t answer all their questions. Definitely no to the poison question but yes maybe he could have been bitten by something – but we couldn’t find any bite marks. A paediatrician was called in and after examining Adam he said he would be performing a lumber puncture. Bryce and I were asked to leave the room while they performed this procedure as it’s very unpleasant.

We heard this high pitched scream come from the room; it broke my heart, my poor little baby, what could possibly be the matter with him? I was an emotional mess.

The paediatrician came out with two test tubes filled with a mucky fluid, he explained to us that they should be clear. He then said he was confirming Adam had Meningitis. He explained that possibly an insect had entered through the ears and lodged in the fluid around his brain.

He started treating Adam straight away with medication and was on the phone constantly with the Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. He explained if anymore could be done at the hospital Adam would be on a plane down there, but he was satisfied with the treatment he was giving him. Adam was transferred to the children’s ward at the Bendigo Hospital opposite the nurses’ desk so they could keep a close eye on him. 

Adam sprung up in bed singing out that the Kangaroos were going to get Dad

I went home and packed my bags for however long I needed to stay at the hospital with Adam. Later that night Adam sprung up in bed singing out that the Kangaroos were going to get Dad.

The nurses were very concerned thinking he was hallucinating but it actually made sense to us because we had just been on a holiday and the Kangaroos had tried to get some bread out of Bryce’s hand – so this was a great sign to say Adam had no brain damage. 

Adam was very drowsy and sleepy for the first couple of days, then as time went on he got better and stronger. He was not keen on being nursed as it hurt his back but loved having Troy come to visit and all his little friends and cousins.

Adam was out of hospital after about one week and had to have an extensive hearing test a couple of weeks later.

Thank God – a million times!

We have stayed with Dennis O’Connor as our Family Doctor since that day and he is also a good friend. We cannot thank him enough for his quick actions and medical attention that day.

Also, a big thank you to the paediatrician and the nursing staff at the Bendigo Base Hospital who were all excellent.

We were very, very lucky that Adam came through this horrible ordeal without any side effects.

Thanks God – a million times!

Watch Adam Selwood in Meningitis: Two Lives, Two Different Outcomes

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