No parent ever wants to see their child like this. This picture is of the geekson, at just 2 weeks old, in the High Dependency Unit of our local hospital. He spent a total of 5 days in hospital, including 24 hours in the HDU with nil by mouth. Babies don’t understand nil by mouth. It was one of the most traumatic times I’ve ever experienced. I stayed with him almost constantly, apart from a few hours each day when the geekdaddy relieved me so I could get home, sort out a few things, maybe have a shower, and then get back in. the doctors never found out exactly what it was. He had a lumbar puncture to rule out meningitis, all sorts of tests for all kinds of bacterial infections, and at the end it was diagnosed as a viral gastroenteritis. The severity of the situation never really hit us at the time, but I must confess to having a few wobbly moments when I got home with him.
A couple of weeks ago the headline article in our freebie local paper was the story of a mum who lives not far from me whose son Charlie had sadly not been so fortunate, and who had died of meningitis at the age of just three months. It was of particular interest to me as the article included a link to her blog, and I was interested to learn of a local blogger. I cannot begin to imagine how she feels, and I admire her greatly for blogging about it. She wants to raise awareness of the symptoms of meningitis, in an attempt to prevent what happened to her happening to any other mother. You can read her story at her blog – http://charliecheekychops.blogspot.com
The geekdaddy and I were complacent. We were second time parents, we thought we knew everything. The geekson had been a dream baby for two weeks, and then had a grotty day. He was hard to settle, grumpy, cried out when I sat him up to burp him after every feed and the only way we could settle him for his naps was on his tummy. This should have rung warning bells for us, but it didn’t! We just wrote it off as him feeling a bit rough! In fact, it wasn’t until about 8pm that evening that the geekdaddy said “I suppose we could try taking his temperature” – neither of us had thought to do that until then!
We took his temperature, and it was 40°C. That’s high. So then we wondered what to do. It was the evening, our doctor’s was closed. I knew that we shouldn’t give Calpol to a 2 week old, we didn’t know what else to do. So we called NHS direct. The lady talked us through checking a few things, looking for spots (there were none), stripping him down to his nappy in order to bring his temperature down. We exhausted her checklist, his temperature began to drop, and so she suggested we call our out of hours doctor. Which we did. We spoke to the nurse, checked the same things all over again, and as his temperature was continuing to drop the conversation ended with a “well, you could bring him down to A&E if you’re worried about him”. Things didn’t seem that urgent, so we made the decision to all go to bed, get some sleep, and take him to the doctor’s in the morning if he continued to be poorly.
We all slept fitfully. the following morning his temperature was up again, and he was crying when I moved him, so we got an appointment at the local doctor’s. the doctor examined him, could tell his temperature was still up, but couldn’t see any sign of infection, so sent us straight down to the children’s ward of our local hospital.
Through all of this, the geekson was drinking his milk and filling his nappy as well as he ever had done. This is probably why we didn’t think things were that serious, and it was the first question any medical professional asked us. In fact he was due for a feed when we arrived at the ward, so they held off doing his booking in checks until he’d drunk. And it was only after that, when they were checking him and prepping him for the lumbar puncture, that he deteriorated and had to be wired up to machines left, right and centre, and took up residence in the HDU.
After our experiences, I was thumbing through one of my baby books – Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care, and I found the following information about temperature in babies. I’m reproducing it here because I don’t want other parents to be as complacent as we were:
Call the doctor if his temperature is higher than 100.4°F (38°C) if he’s under three months, 101°F (38.3°C) if he’s between three and six months, 103°F (39.5°C) if he’s six months or older… If you see a temperature that’s higher than 104°F (40°C) in the first three months, don’t hesitate – take him straight to hospital.
We were lucky. We delayed when we shouldn’t have done, but thankfully the geekson didn’t have meningitis. My thoughts go out to Charlie’s Mum, and anyone else who has lost a baby to this horrible illness. We knew we should be looking for spots that didn’t fadeunder pressure from a glass, but what we didn’t know was that the first symptoms of meningitis could simply be a grumpy baby with a temperature.