It has been five years since I learned about meningitis....when we almost lost our then fourteen month old. I am writing this to help me deal with the grief I feel when I remember.
On November 25, 1998 everything in our day seemed normal. Evan had been to the public health office earlier in the day for his MMR vaccine and everything was fine. We went for supper to my in-laws because we had some great news to share with them. As they opened the door, my four year old son blurted out "Mommy has a baby in her tummy!" It was supposed to be a day of celebration. After supper, Evan vomited. He felt warm. I remember the health nurse saying that the MMR vaccine takes about 7 days before there might be a mild fever. Maybe he had an ear infection. He was prone to them. We gave him some Tylenol and headed home.
He was asleep by eight o'clock and I went to bed not long after (after all I was seven weeks pregnant). I had the monitor on in our room as always so I could hear if Evan woke up. He did indeed wake up... at two forty-five in the morning... he let out five shrill screams that made my blood curdle. I jumped out of bed to get him. He wasn't crying. He felt warm. I gave him more Tylenol and warmed a bottle for him. As I sat with him and he drank some of his bottle.... he wasn't seeing me. He was staring at me with a blank look, like he didn't know who I was. No mom ever wants her baby to look at her like that. It is a snapshot in my memory.I took Evan upstairs and woke up my husband. I asked him to watch Evan while I got dressed... we were going to emergency. Evan lay on our bed... didn't fidget, didn't whine, didn't try to climb down...he just stared blankly.
I am so thankful for the nurses who were there that night.
They took blood and admitted him. I remember feeling completely helpless. Here was my baby and I could do nothing for him. I prayed and asked God for strength. I realized that I was helpless... all I could do was love my baby. So that is all I did.
Doctor was back at the hospital three hours later (not much sleep) and ordered more tests, x-rays, more blood work. They already had Evan on IV. The doctor came to see me and said they wanted to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis and brought me a form. I signed a form that said if they paralyzed my son I would not hold them responsible (that's it in a nut shell). I signed it. I knew this was serious. I didn't expect for them to tell me that it was indeed meningitis... but they did.
It was morning, about 11 o'clock when meningitis was confirmed. My husband, mom, dad, mother-in-law and father-in-law were called. Everyone was suddenly in this tiny examining room together looking at this beautiful baby on the table who was not responding. I couldn't lift him because he had just had a spinal tap. I was told not to kiss him. I just stroked his hair and told him I loved him.
I couldn't even tell him it was going to be okay because I wasn't sure.
He was flown by air ambulance to the University Hospital in Saskatoon. There wasn't room on the airplane for me. We made arrangements for my four year old son to stay with my friend, my mom and my mother-in-law alternately. I hated to leave him behind. I don't even know who was watching him that morning because I know my husband had gone to work until we called. It must have been my mother-in-law. My father-in-law drove my husband and I to Saskatoon. I cried in the back seat while my father-in-law told me it would be okay. He said that Evan was in good hands. He is an EMT and I know now how scared he must have been. He knew it wasn't promising.
We arrived at the hospital an hour and a half after Evan. It was confirmed that Evan had Hemophilus Influenzae type B or hIB meningitis, which he had immunizations for at two, four and six months old. It was a bacterial meningitis, which is often more serious than the viral. He had a CT scan done which showed three pockets of fluid on his brain. He had tubes everywhere and I am so thankful he was sleeping when we got there. I felt so guilty not being able to ride with him in the air ambulance. The nurses told me that his skull had actually expanded from the pressure on his brain (they kept taking measurements). He was in isolation and there was a room that I could stay in down the hall. I opted to sleep in a very small cot/chair beside his bed. My husband stayed across the street at a bed and breakfast. On the third night, the nurses convinced me to stay in the mom's room. I was pregnant and needed some sleep. They assured me that they would call me if needed.
All I remember of the first four or five days was Evan crying and I rocked him. I remember that my knees were in pain from rocking him, yet still I rocked and prayed.
I wanted my Evan.
My husband went back home on the fifth day. He needed to work and our four year old needed him. I talked on the phone with my oldest son every day. I wanted to hold him. He must have been so scared. I am so thankful we have family that we trusted to care for and love him. He wrote his brother a poem over the phone one night. It read like this: "Evan, I love you. I am sorry that you are sick. I can't wait until you get home and I can play with you. And I will be nice to you too." I couldn't wait to get home and be a family again. It was so hard being apart from my husband and son. They were over three hours away. They came for a visit a week later. Big brother wore a mask and gown and visited with brother. They played. Evan was recovering. His fever was still spiking every few hours and he was taking Advil and Tylenol alternated as well as three kinds of medication for his meningitis.
Evan was discharged thirteen days after we took him to emergency.
The CT scan now showed that there wasn't any fluid on his brain. He looked tired, but he was communicating and playing. December 8 is a day for us to remember to be thankful, to count our blessings. That is the day we brought Evan home... and our lives have forever been changed. We now have three wonderful sons and every day is a day that we have been blessed to love them, cherish them, hold them, sing to them, read to them, play with them, learn from them... oh how they teach us about the true meaning of life.
Hold your children. Don't forget how precious and fragile life is.