Lately it seems everyone we talk to compliments us on how healthy Jade is looking. She’s happy, healthy, and, while still rather tiny, resuming her growth and skill progression as any little baby should.
Last month, on February 1st, we found ourselves in the emergency room receiving the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. That was a fun week, let me tell you.
One morning, sometime in the middle of January, Jade woke up rather sick. She was tired, pale, and vomiting. A pleasant situation for everyone, I assure you. Well, Layne worked from home that day as well as the next, that second day being when he ran Jade into the doctor’s office where she was diagnosed with an ear infection. Antibiotics were prescribed and we carried on.
But she wasn’t quite perking up as we hoped. About a week later, I took her into Urgent Care. Ear infection still doing its thing. We carried on. And then a few days later, at the close of the original antibiotic, we went back into our family doctor office. Ear infection was still hanging out in one ear, and another, stronger, antibiotic was prescribed.
Jade still acted sickly, but not as she was originally. Layne was working in Park City for that week, and one day I stayed home when Jade acted particularly sick. Toward the end of the week, health finally seemed to be on the return. She was happier, had a better appetite, and crawled and played more. We were getting our happy baby back.
Then, that Sunday, she ended her run of the second antibiotic. Okay. The next day, she went downhill and downhill fast. We all knew something was wrong. Our daycare provider said she was sick. My mom said she was sick. We knew she was sick. So we made another appointment and went into the doctor. We couldn’t see our regular doctor, so the appointment was made with a nice NP. I dragged in Ruby and the pale and frail Jade. The nice NP examined her, a frown appearing as she said “this isn’t right.” She went and she pulled out regular doctor from whatever he was doing. He also examined her… and told us he was seeing signs of meningitis and that we ought to get down to Primary Children’s Hospital.
Whoa, I thought. Layne was at work. I called him and told him we needed to head down to Salt Lake City and we made plans to meet at his office. I dropped Ruby off at my parents’ with hardly a by your leave, and they weren’t even home and my sister found herself in charge. And off we went to the hospital to sit in the ER waiting room.
At this point, everyone wasn’t positive it was meningitis. Our doctor said he was actually betting on dehydration, but still wanted us to get it checked out by those more powerful. Even the ER doctors were asking repeatedly for just why our doctor sent us down here with the suspicion of meningitis, because not all symptoms were there and they tested for a lot more meningitis than they ultimately diagnosed.
But test for meningitis they did with a spinal tap… and within a few hours we first had definite meningitis followed by a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis.
Our cute little happy girl had a fairly rare and fairly serious disease and was admitted into the hospital. We were there for four days while she was given antibiotics and the doctors waited for cultures to determine more specific antibiotics. She was poked and prodded and even had residents come in to feel her swollen fontanel (a meningitis symptom) so they too could recognize it.
One of my greatest fears during this time was that we had brought her in too late. She had been sick more or less for over two weeks. Had she had meningitis this entire time?
Fortunately, no. The ER doctors hadn’t been jumping right to meningitis and part of that was apparently most of the cases they saw had the patient coming in much later. Her meningitis? Probably that day or the day before, likely stemming from the prior ear infection, maybe kept at bay by the antibiotic.
We went home four days later with a happier baby (just joyful to be out of her hospital room), a PICC line, and a plan for the home health people. We then spent the next week and a half pumping medicine into her PICC line every day. While this was happening, Jade was obviously getting better. She was still pale, still a little tired, but worlds better than she had been. And every day she became better and better, more or less returning to her old self and her old ways.
Of course Layne and I spent that first night in the hospital googling bacterial meningitis and frightening ourselves. Except… we weren’t really frightening ourselves. Once we were rested, we felt calm, that everything would be fine. The doctors couldn’t be sure, but they did say we had brought Jade in time and the prognosis was good. We just had to get her better. That just wasn’t a worry for us.
She’s fine now. She passed her hearing test the other day. She’s practicing walking, practicing talking. It’s all good and for that I am eternally grateful.
You must understand I still don’t quite comprehend just how serious bacterial meningitis can be. It’s a big deal, a very big deal and babies and people can die from this.
What I have Learned About Bacterial Meningitis
Obviously, this is caused by bacteria, in our case from the ear infection. It’s different from the more common and less severe viral meningitis. There are several bacteria usually causing this. According to our doctors, many are vaccinated against now, leading to a rise in cases from other bacteria. This is what happened in our case, though I still give the warning, as a believer in vaccines, to vaccinated your children.
Symptoms of meningitis in babies
- Listlessness or drowsiness
- Deydration-like symptoms
- Bulging fontanelle spot
- Vomiting (This is what sent me running home the day of the ER visit)
- Stiffness, presenting in babies as seeming to have pain or stiffness when picked up or moved
- Purple rashes (Jade did not have these)
Funnily enough, I had read about meningitis earlier in the ear infection battle. She wasn’t hitting most of these until that week, and I had told myself it couldn’t possibly be meningitis.
Pay attention to these symptoms if a baby just isn’t getting better. And keep your doctor in the loop.