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Before I begin, I just want to say, I am no expert on the subject of Meningitis. The information I give, is purely what I needed, to research for my own piece of mind, I needed all the help I could get, I knew nothing about this terrible illness and I was totally ignorant about it, I just blocked it out, telling myself, it wont happen to me or mine so I don't need to worry about it.
How wrong could I be.......My daughter was just 12 years old, I really thought I was going to lose her, I thought this is it, she's going to die.......
Meningitis and Septicemia
Both the above named diseases can kill within hours, Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease.
Both diseases have different symptoms, many people that recover from these diseases can be left with a range of different side effects, that can dramatically change their lives. Usually Meningitis is bacterial or viral but can sometimes be due to fungal infections. Although Viral Meningitis is very unpleasant, it is never usually life threatening and people who suffer from this type, will more than likely make a full recovery.
However Bacterial Meningitis is far more serious and can be caused by many different forms of bacteria. The most common cases caused in the UK and Ireland are Meningococcal bacteria, this bacteria can cause Meningitis or Septicemia or both. Most people who contract the disease will experience symptoms from both Meningitis and Septicemia. The two forms of disease together are known as Meningococcal disease.
Septicemia is a far more life threatening disease, even more dangerous when there are no signs Meningitis.
There are other forms of Meningitis which include:
Homophiles influenza b (Hib)
Bacterial forms that mostly, though not exclusively, affect newborn babies are:
Group B Streptococcal (GBS)
There are vaccines available against some types of meningitis and septicemia which have reduced the number of cases in the UK and Ireland. There is also vaccination when travelling to other countries where different types of the disease are more common. However, many other equally deadly forms of the diseases are not vaccine preventable, so until research finds the key to defeating these diseases, knowing about the diseases and being able to recognize meningitis symptoms is vital.
I speak now of this type of Meningitis, because this is the type my daughter contracted and I needed to learn all I could about this disease, I had to do something so I didn't feel so utterly useless.
Meningococcal disease affects around 2,000 people in the UK and Ireland every year. The disease can affect anyone of any age, but mainly affects babies, pre-school children and young people. Meningococcal meningitis and septicemia are life-threatening diseases, but most people affected do recover. Septicemia on its own is more likely to be fatal than meningitis.
Most people do make a full recovery, but there are cases where some are left with disabilities or serious problems that can affect their life. Meningococcal infection is an important cause of illness globally. There are an estimated 1.2 million cases and 135,000 deaths worldwide each year.
So where does Meningococcal Meningitis come from?
The bacteria that cause this disease live in the back of the throat and nose, the bacteria can only live on a human being and it's said that any one of us can carry that bacteria around with us for weeks or even months without realizing it's there, but thankfully to most of us this bacteria is harmless as most of us have natural resistance. The bacteria is passed from person to person through close contact, kissing, coughing or sneezing for example, but cannot live for long outside the human body, and because of this the disease is not very contagious, as the bacteria can not live on clothes, cups, furniture or toys for example.
What are the symptoms?
Fever / vomiting
Dislike of bright lights
Very sleepy / vacant / difficult to wake
Confused / delirious
If you witness any of these, I urge you not to hesitate in seeking medical advice, it is vital you respond as quickly as is humanly possible, it could make a difference of life and death and I cannot stress enough how important it is, when driving they say speed kills, in this instance lack of speed could kill.
How does someone catch Meningitis and Septicemia?
Only a very small fraction of people fall ill of the disease when exposed to meningococcal. Once the bacteria breaks through the protective lining of the nose and throat and enters the blood stream, is when the illness occurs. The bacteria rapidly multiply once they have entered the blood stream, doubling every 30 minutes or so. Meningitis is caused when the bacteria cross the blood brain barrier, in some cases septicemia happens so quickly there is no time for it to develop into meningitis.
How should Meningococcal Meningitis be treated?
It should be treated immediately!, the sooner it is recognized, the better the chance of treatment and full recovery. However if the symptoms are not clear to the GP the person concerned will have to wait for treatment to begin, until they are sure they know exactly what they are dealing with.
An examination will take place and blood tests. A lumber puncture should be performed, depending on the severity of the illness. It is in fact the lumber puncture that will diagnose the disease.
The patient will be closely monitored in hospital for the first couple of nights as these can be very disturbed and hectic. Some patients are able to leave hospital, with the correct medication after a couple of nights, some a week to 10 days and others who are struggling with the disease have to go to intensive care, where they can be very closely monitored. For weeks, sometimes months.
Any after effects from Meningitis?
Usually, people who have suffered from Meningitis, will make a full recovery with no long lasting side effects. Short term effects can include feeling a little disorientated for a while, or confused.
Help and advice
Everything you may want or need to know can be found here http://www.meningitis.org/ A very good and informative website, with loads of really helpful information.
A nightmare, from start to finish.
My daughter was 12 years old, she was in year 7 and she was perfectly happy and contented with her life at that time, she was doing well at school and had a few friends. She was happy. I really can't remember what happened at first. Natalie (I'll call her by her name it's easier) had been experiencing a few headaches, which is nothing unusual but she was getting them a lot more often and lasting for longer. I gave her pain killers to try to ease it, but she said they were doing no good.
Then it all happened so fast, it was like we were living on fast forward. She went to bed complaining of the pain in her head, her eyes hurt, she couldn't bear to look at any lights. Her neck pain was so severe she couldn't keep her head up, when she spoke, she made no sense what so ever, I was really beginning to worry at this stage. She wanted to sleep but I didn't want her to go to sleep, I feared she wouldn't wake up again.
We had called an emergency doctor by this point, who said they would send someone out. We waited for what seemed like days, it was in actual fact around 2 hours (some emergency service) Natalie was checked over and the doctor said he would administer a pain relief injection, I agreed as I didn't want her to be in any pain, she cried when the doctor gave her the injection, she said "it hurts so much". The doctor left but I wasn't convinced that a shot of some sort of pain relief was going to help.
That night was a nightmare, I don't think any of us slept. The next morning I was on the phone to my GP he said he'd come out to her, and did indeed come out. He looked her over and looked doubtful. I said to him then and there, I'm no medical expert, but I'm sure she has Meningitis. The doctor didn't looked convinced he assured me it was not Meningitis and left, leaving behind a prescription for me to get for her, he diagnosed her as having a "Water infection".
I was beside myself by now, why could no one see what I could see, I knew it was Meningitis, it was so damned obvious. I called the doctor back out, I was really not happy at this point. He came back out and took another look at her, she did not look good at all, the doctor must have had some sort of knock to the head, as he just began to act all panicky and told me I had to get her to hospital as soon as possible.
The hospital was another experience I'd sooner forget. They took her straight in and did all the tests they needed to do.
It was confirmed that she did indeed have Meningococcal Meningitis. She remained in hospital for around 10 days in all but them 10 days were touch and go, she was wired up to all sorts of machines, she looked dreadful, and I cried and cried so much I truly thought she was going to die, I thought I was going to lose my little girl. I found it extremely hard to deal with as two years earlier she had been in this very same hospital with a burst appendix, where I had been told to prepare myself for the worst, as she was in a critical condition and they wouldn't know what would happen until after surgery. I didn't need this heart ache all over again, it was just to much to take. She had every symptom but the actual rash itself.
On top of everything else as the week went on, she started her periods, she was entering womanhood and had to deal with that as well as the meningitis. But she was strong, she was a fighter and she pulled through it, slowly but none the less she did pull through. My husband and I were given tablets to take as a precaution and medicine was to be given to my son who was little more than 2 years at the time.
It seems to me that whenever there was something going round you could guarantee Natalie would get it, but always the worst of it, she wouldn't just be ill for a short time, with the normal childhood complaints, she had to have the worst of everything. To me she's a living miracle I think she could pull through anything life threw at her. She is now 23, living with her boyfriend. She has recently graduated from university with a degree in psychology and I am so very proud of her.
I hope my experience, will help someone who may find themselves in the same position I was in. My advice is to do what you think is right for your child, I believe there is no stronger bond than that between mother and child. A mother just knows, don't ask me how, they just do. I think it's up to us as far as our children are concerned, no one knows your child better than you. Go with your instincts, it could save your child's life.
Incidentally, I received a phone call at the hospital from my GP whilst Natalie was there, he couldn't apologize enough for not acting straight away, when I had told him I first suspected it was meningitis.
Thank you for reading, also posted on Ciao. I can only give meningitis 1 star, by rights it should have 0, just saying that word makes me shudder.
Meningitis is a killer and I am writing this review, not to scare, but hopefully as a useful information resource to remind people what to look out for if this infection is suspected. I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing an acute case of this recently involving one of my friend's children (who thankfully is doing great now). However I won't lie to you it was an extremely distressing and terrifying experience for all involved. A common effect of meningitis is that initially the symptoms tend to resemble the flu so people are unaware of its progression until it has become quite a serious infection. I however can't stress enough how imperative it is to catch this condition quickly as this will result in more effective overall management of the infection once admitted to hospital.
What is meningitis?
This condition affects the covering layers of the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). It can be caused by a virus, bacterium or fungi. Although other forms of meningitis exist the two most common versions are Viral meningitis and Bacterial Meningitis.
Viral meningitis is the most common type, and it has to be pointed out the least serious form of the condition. It most commonly affects babies and children who are less than a year old. This type normally gets better by itself within a couple of weeks and does not often require medical intervention or treatment.
Bacterial Meningitis however is extremely serious and should be treated as a medical emergency. The reason for this is that if it is left untreated it can cause severe damage to the brain, furthermore it can infect the blood with a condition called Septicaemia which can ultimately lead to death. Treatment for this type of meningitis must be very swift and will require immediate admission to an Intensive care unit, primarily to ensure that the body's functions are supported, usually on a ventilator, and where antibiotics can be administered to fight the infection. Unfortunately death can occur in about one in ten of these cases due to symptoms being missed which ultimately can cause a delay in treatment. Although it is possible for some younger children and older adults to develop this infection it is most common in children under three and in teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15-24.
Signs and Symptoms?
Unfortunately a lot of the classic signs of meningitis can be missed, this is due to them being similar to normal flu symptoms. If you have young babies and Toddlers at home it is imperative that you watch out for any of the following signs. It should however be noted that not all of these symptoms may be experienced and if there is any doubt then a medical professional should be contacted without delay.
Look Out For!!
Fever, Cold hands and feet, Refusal of Food,Vomiting, Pale Blotchy Skin ,Fretful Not Wanting To Be Handled. A Bulging Fontanel - soft part of the front of babies head, Floppy, Listless, Unresponsive, Drowsy Difficult to Wake, Spots/Rash (Look at The Glass Test Section), Rapid breathing or grunting. Unusual cry/moaning.
In the case of suspected Meningitis in older children and adults look for the same symptoms as with babies and toddlers above however in addition there may also be some of the following.
Confusion and irritability, Severe muscle pain,Stomach cramps and diarrhoea, Severe headache.Stiff neck and adversion to bright lights.
The Glass Test?
Watch out for tiny red or brown pin prick marks which can change into purple blotches or blood blisters. The rash can appear anywhere on the body and can develop very quickly.This is an extremely simple test to carry out however please also bear in mind that a rash may not appear immediately or sometimes not at all. If a rash appears press a glass tumbler firmly against the rash, as a result of this you will be able to see if the rash fades and loses its colour under the pressure. If it does not change colour you will be able to see the rash through the glass. Seek medical advice immediately. The rash can be harder to see on dark skin, so check for spots over the whole body, especially on paler areas like palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids, and on the roof of the mouth.
Early Warning Symptoms Quick Refresher
In the first few hours (up to 8 hours for adolescents) look out for fever, nausea, vomiting, irritability, runny nose and a sore throat.
In the 7-12 hour period look out for leg pain, cold hands and feet, mottled or pale skin. These are IMPORTANT SIGNS OF SEPTICAEMIA.
In the 13-22 hour period : rash, impaired consciousness and stiff neck.
PLEASE NOTE THAT NOT EVERY BABY GETS ALL THESE SYMPTOMS AND THAT THE SYMPTOMS CAN APPEAR IN ANY ORDER.
If you have any concerns or require further information on this topic then contact your GP, Health Visitor or Practice Nurse. There is a wallet sized card that has been produced which highlights the main signs and symptoms of Meningitis, this is a useful resource to keep handy. There are several useful websites on this topic and while researching for this review I would recommend the following as good sources of information.
Also on Ciao
An acute bacterial disease, characterized by sudden onset with fever, intense headache, nausea and often vomiting, stiff neck, and, frequently, a petechial rash with pink macules. In sub-Saharan Africa, epidemics of serogroup A or C meningococcal disease