Leyah had a cold, not unusual for a two-year-old. Two days later she had symptoms of meningitis but the hospital suspected pneumonia. Fiona felt it was more and was persistent. Her instincts were accurate. A few hours later, doctors told Fiona and her daughter that Leyah might not make it through the night. After a seven-day battle with meningitis Leyah became what her doctors and nurses still call a "Miracle Baby".

Leyah's grandmother, Fiona, tells her story: Persistence May have Saved a Child's Life

I am sharing this story with you because I feel that, if I can save a child's life by telling it, then it's worthwhile. I would like to dismiss the fallacy that if a child is still eating and drinking they are ok, this was not the case with my granddaughter, Leyah.

Also, Nurses and Doctors don't always diagnose a condition correctly. I want to put the message across that it is up to you, the family, to be persistent if your child's condition deteriorates. Do not be afraid to insist on getting your child seen right away. Yes, Emergency Rooms are overloaded and you put your trust in them, you believe they know what they are doing. You believe the guy who came in after you holding his side is admitted before your child because he is in more urgent need than your child with a high fever!? I am here to tell you that if it were not for my persistence, my granddaughter would not be alive today.

This is what happened to my precious granddaughter, Leyah in March of 1999:
Leyah started with a cold for 2 days. On the morning of the 3rd day she vomited "exorcist" style.

She barely moved all that day.

Leyah's eyes were glazed and she was very sensitive to light, noise and touch. By 4pm, Leyah's mother (my daughter) told me "Mom, I'm really worried about her, please come home and take her to emergency now, she's got these little spots all over her body, her skin is gray and her lips are purple - I think she's dying".

When I arrived at the house and my bubbly little Leyah did not come running to the door to greet me I panicked. Leyah was lying on the couch and tried to lift her head up to where my voice was coming from, but she couldn't. Leyah's hair was soaking wet with fever. We dressed her as quickly and painlessly as possible. When we got to Emergency a Nurse checked her out and told us she thought Leyah had pneumonia, because of her high temperature. We were told to sit in the waiting room. We sat for 3 hours.

Leyah had developed diarrhea and the third time I changed her diaper I noticed the little spots were turning into what looked like bruises. She was still trying to walk, but could only take a step or two before collapsing. We took her back up to the Nurses station and told another Nurse that Leyah's condition had deteriorated. We were taken straight in to see the Doctor, who diagnosed her very quickly with "some form of meningitis", he told us he'd have to do a spinal tap to determine which strain she had but that she was in serious condition and may not make it through the night. She was so severe that the infection had reached her nerve endings, just in the 3 hours we sat in the waiting room. At this point, Leyah was 99.9% dead. They inserted IV´s into both hands and both feet to pump anti-biotic into her as fast as possible.

My daughter, Joanne, and I fell apart.

God's Hands

I told Joanne that she was in God's hands now and we'd better start praying. We were told another hospital was sending up an ambulance, but before they could transport her they would have to stabilize her blood pressure. It was 4 hours later when she was loaded into the ambulance. Those next few minutes were the worst moments of our lives. There were 12 people from the 2 hospitals in the ambulance - paramedics, nurses, doctors, pediatricians, infectious disease clinic specialists. We were told there would be no room in the ambulance for us. It was really scary.

We stood helplessly watching them all load her into the ambulance, this frail little body laid out on a big stretcher - covered in IV´s, oxygen and heart monitors, breathing tubes and a catheter. It is a sight I will never forget as long as I live. We were paralyzed with the fear of whether or not she would still be alive by the time we got to the other hospital.

Leyah was taken to Isolation/Critical Care Unit, where I kept a bedside vigil for the next 5 days. The hospitals had done everything they could for her, now the rest was up to her. The first 24 hours is critical - she made it over that first hump. The second day, there was no change in her condition. The third evening, her condition improved slightly and her vital organs started functioning again.

The nurse told me she gave her a 75% chance of making it, while at the same time stressing that she could relapse anytime and go downhill very fast, Leyah was "not out of the woods yet".

She did continue to improve over the next couple of days and on the fifth evening she was moved from Critical Care to a Ward, she was now officially out of danger.

The 7th day she was sent home as soon as her last IV came off. The hospital staff called her a miracle baby because she is unscathed apart from a few scars that look like cigarette burns. I was very nervous taking her home, she still looked and smelled like death and I was scared she might relapse, but a nurse assured me that she would be ok, and this time the nurse was right!

Making a Difference

Get Vaccinated
Stay up to date on all Meningitis vaccinations.
Spread Awareness
As simple as sharing information, resources online and stories.
Donate Today
Support awareness and help support affected families.
Two children hugging on a pathway