A Child’s Meningitis And A Mother’s Dilemma Pt I


A few years ago, my son Sebastian caught meningitis.

It was a scary afternoon.

He’d complained of his back hurting which is a strange thing for a three year old to complain of; he also was acting uncharacteristically clingy.

He wanted to sit on my lap, only mine, and the only time he showed any kind of fight or energy was when his position there was threatened.

I was concerned but not unduly so.

At this age, fevers and pains were occurring frequently.

But I must have been more than usually attentive because when I took him out in the car, he turned his head away from the light. I knew immediately this was a sign of meningitis because I’d just looked it up in a book.

I took him to the hospital round the corner from our house instead of the famous children’s hospital twenty minutes away because I knew we needed care asap.

Initially we were told to wait in the waiting room but as I walked away, I saw a doctor move over and whisper in the receptionist’s ear.

Immediately we sat down we were on the move again, to a room that had it’s own closed circuit air-conditioning system. Meningitis is highly infectious and rooms like this are used for patients with such diseases to prevent them being spread around a hospital.

This was not looking good.

I learned that afternoon the hospital we were at didn’t have a pediatric department. Who knew? But if I hadn’t been told that, it would have been evident from the bedside manner of the attending ER doctor. ‘The last child that presented like this. Died.’

The experience was all the more anxiety-producing and poignant because my friend’s son had died just three weeks before. With the doctor’s words, the thought that I might be joining my friend in some kind of desperate mother’s club became all the more real.

I wondered if I too would be shortly planning my son’s funeral. Or that I would be leaving the hospital without him for ever, like she had.

I remember looking at his beautiful sleeping face, flushed with fever, and trying so hard to imprint it on my memory as I wondered if it would become one of my last memories of him.

A lumbar puncture confirmed the diagnosis.

No-one was allowed in or out of the room including our other son. It was me and limited medical staff only.

An ambulance arrived to transfer him to the children’s hospital I had decided against earlier. Two paramedics and two pediatric ICU nurses came for him.

The level of attention was such that I had to travel in a car behind.

In my anxiety and confusion I turned the wrong way out of the hospital parking lot and lost sight of the ambulance. I risked losing my license for ever as I raced to catch up with it.

I expect that nothing in my life will surpass the surreality of chasing the ambulance that contained my child.

Another womb was carrying him back to the hospital where he was born.

What happened in the hospital that tortured me and him? And taught me that sometimes there is no good answer? But which ultimately brought us closer. Read Pt II here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie December 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Holy cow, what a cliffhanger! Waiting for part 2 will be torture…


Alison Golden December 2, 2010 at 11:23 am


I have a self-imposed limit of 500 words because I tend to get wordy. People like to be ‘done’ and the feedback I get is for shorter posts. So I split the post into two at an appropriate point. This just happened to be that point. I’ll post the second part as soon as I’ve edited it.


Bonnie December 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm

OMGosh Alison, I remember this. We were all so very concerned for you guys especially after the loss of Ryan! I am also not surprised about your experience at “the nearby hospital”. I had a similar experience there when Spencer was just shy of 3yrs old in March of 2004. He contracted rotavirus. He was hospitalized within 12 hours of the first symptom. I KNOW we must have encountered the same ER doc because after he told me that Spencer was getting worse and he didn’t know what he had or if he would survive, he proceeded to lecture me about taking children to that hospital because they don’t have a pediatric ER doc. It was an absolutely horrible experience and I too thought we were going to loose him. I threw a complete fit and told them to get the “children’s hosptial” transfer immediately or I would drive him there myself. Spencer was hospitalized at the “children’s hospital” for 4 days and also endured a spinal tap to rule out meningitis (even though he didn’t have any of the classic signs). They confirmed rotavirus and Spencer started to turn around. I know warn everyone I know with kids not to go to the “nearby hospital” with kids!


Alison Golden December 2, 2010 at 11:24 am

I remember your episode, too. It was a summer of punches one after another, it seemed. Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie 🙂


Mary E. Ulrich
December 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

OMG Alison, how horrible. I’m glad I know he is okay or I’d be panicked now in worry.
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Alison Golden December 2, 2010 at 11:25 am

Hi Mary:

Yes, most readers of this blog would know he is OK or I wouldn’t have left it like that. Panic is not what I want to engender in my readers. 🙂


Cathy Presland
December 2, 2010 at 2:34 am

Hi Alison,

Great to have you back blogging but, boy, what a topic! My cousin’s son went through a similar experience (he’s OK now) – so scary. Glad Mary has given the ending away or I don’t think I would be able to comment…

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Alison Golden December 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

I like your blog post title, Cathy. I am blogging around once a week until the New Year but I’ll add the second part to this pretty soon. Glad you know your relative is OK.


Kim December 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

How scary……I would have been an absolute wreck!

(just stopping by via SITS/Blog Frog)
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Alison Golden December 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

It was pretty horrific but it all turned out well in the end 🙂


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