We eventually got to the hospital and the doctors and nurses were there waiting with a stretcher and rushed her inside, we followed not knowing what to do or where to go. We knew that Sheila was the priority so we just sat and waited. About 20 minutes later a doctor came to us and said they were pretty sure in was meningococcal meningitis which was the nasty one but they wouldn’t know for sure until they did a lumbar puncture and needed our consent. Of course we gave it straight away, I knew about these as my Dad had them when he had the tumour and it was then done without anaesthetic. I asked the doctor if it was still the same but he assured me she wouldn’t feel a thing.
The waiting was agonising every time a person came past we thought it was for us. Eventually the doctor came to us and said they now knew it was the meningococcal meningitis and they were pumping her full of penicillin which is evidently the only treatment. The Doctor said he had been told that I had been giving her the antibiotic through the night I confirmed it and thought I might be in for a telling off but no the opposite he said I had most definitely given her a better chance of recovery. He said she was what they called on open order which meant they weren’t sure if she would pull through it was a waiting game . The next 48hours were critical if she survived that then she stood an excellent chance of a full recovery.
The doctor said we could see her for a couple of minutes but she was still unconscious and then suggested we went home and got some rest, as there was nothing we could do. He said Sheila would be in an isolation ward as it was highly infectious and that we must watch the other children and if we had any doubts bring them to the hospital. In those days you were not allowed to stay with your children in hospital, there were strict visiting times .
We now had a problem we were both scruffy and eventually got a taxi home. I had left Carols telephone number at the hospital. When we got home Lesley and Stephen sobbed there hearts out because we hadn’t got Sheila with us they thought she had died. It was heartbreaking to see them. I sat them down and I told them every thing the doctor had said. I am a firm believer in sharing most things with the children ,then they appreciate what life is about. If you don’t give them the facts and just gloss over things then they don’t realise the true sequence of events.
That evening was pure hell not knowing what was happening at the hospital. I kept ringing but there was no change she was still on open order. I could not sleep that night. I did the washing and whatever else was needed that didn’t make a noise. I went up to bed about 4am and I did sleep until 7am. I got up and went to the phone box the hospital said there was no change but that she hadn’t got any worse. She was out of intensive care and in an isolation ward.
I got the kids washed and dressed and gave them breakfast. Linda had stayed the night and offered to stay with Lesley and Stephen again while Mike and I went to the hospital. I called Mike and asked if he was going to the hospital and he surprised me by saying of course he was and would be down in a minute and to get the kettle on.
When he came down I told him the nurse said we could stay with Sheila as long as we wanted but that she was still unconscious. He surprised me even more when he said if it got him down he would come home and go back for me.
When we got to the hospital we were taken to the isolation ward which I thought would have several children in but no it was just a small room with just Sheila’s cot in it. My heart broke she looked so so ill I just wanted to pick her up and hug her but we had been told we mustn’t take her out of the cot.
Shortly after the Doctor came to speak to us, this was a very scary moment. He said that there was a slight improvement but not enough to assume she was out of the woods. He also said that she hadn’t lost any fingers or toes I asked him what did he mean and he explained that the purple spots were where septicaemia was present and if she hadn’t been on the penicillin already she would certainly have lost some digits. I was shocked I had no idea this could happen. The Doctor said we had saved her life with the prompt treatment ,even though the Doctor had said it was tonsillitis . He said we should be cautiously optimistic.
Mike was shell shocked, we had come so close to losing her. We just didn’t know how devastating this strain of meningitis was. In fact we knew nothing about the disease at all before then.
A nurse came in and said they wanted to do some tests on Sheila and could we go and get something to eat for an hour or so then they should have finished. We went into Watford to try and find some food but of course it was Sunday and every where was shut . We eventually found a café, had some sandwiches and a drink. We then went for a walk to pass a little time before going back to the hospital.
When we got back they had finished and Sheila did look a little more comfortable but still unconscious. We stayed until 4pm then told the nurse that we were going and I would be back in the morning. I double checked they had Carols phone number and the nurse said don’t hesitate to ring any time day or night. She said she had a little girl the same age as Sheila and knew how she would feel in our situation. I thanked her and off we went. At least we had the car.
When we got home the kids were clamouring for news of Sheila and also wanted to know when they could visit. I said she was a little bit better but still very poorly and that they wouldn’t be allowed to visit her as she was infectious. They were not very happy but Lesley understood.
Linda was amazing she offered to stay all week so that I could go and visit Sheila every day. She had a weeks holiday and she was willing, in fact wanted to stay with the kids, so I took her up on her offer. I was up really early to get Lesley to school and I wanted to leave about 9.30am. I had to get a bus into Hemel Town and then another bus to Watford then about a 15minute walk to the hospital. I had no idea how long it would take.
It was a horrible journey it seemed to take forever. I eventually got to the hospital at 11am . I went to the nurses office and Sheila’s nurse said she was awake but not very responsive. I was still not allowed to pick her up. I went to her room and she looked up at me and seemed to look straight through me it didn’t seem to register to her that it was me. I was very scared ,I spoke to her but she just turned away . I went and found the nurse and told her what had happened, she said not to worry that it would take time for things to make sense to her. Her 48 hours were up and she was still with us .