When Charlotte Pemberton gave birth to son Arthur, it should have been an exciting time – but just hours after his birth, he became sick and tests later revealed he had meningitis.
Charlotte tells AASMA DAY why she wants other families to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis so the disease can be diagnosed fast.
When Charlotte Pemberton’s newborn baby Arthur began suffering “mini fits” and hitting out at the side of his cot, she knew deep down that something was wrong.
Charlotte, 30, who is married to Gareth and lives in Penwortham, near Preston, says: “I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when I was 35 weeks pregnant and because I was not able to control my sugars, doctors were worried Arthur was going to be a big baby and wanted to induce me.
“Arthur was born on February 3 2013 at 4.13am and had to be monitored because of my gestational diabetes.
“Luckily, Arthur had to be kept in hospital as he was very jaundiced and required light therapy treatment.
“It was during this time, the first 48 hours of his life, that Arthur was showing signs of being sick.
“He kept having ‘mini fits’ and would hit out at the sides of his cot frequently, but I was told by the midwives that it was completely normal.
“They initially thought it was just reflex and there was nothing to worry about.
“I also noticed that Arthur’s hands and feet were cold, his face kept changing colour and at one point, he appeared to stop breathing and had a ‘staring’ episode.
“When the doctors finally reviewed Arthur, he was put on antibiotics and the following morning he was given a lumbar puncture which confirmed he had meningitis.
“We were allowed home on February 18 after 14 days of antibiotics.”
Charlotte says she and her husband Gareth are all too aware of the devastating effects of meningitis as Gareth had an older brother who died of the disease when he was nine months old.
Charlotte wants to hear from other families whose babies may have been affected with meningitis at the same time as Arthur.
Although Arthur has not been left with any lasting effects as a result of the meningitis, Charlotte admits the encounter affected her deeply.
She explains: “Arthur is a healthy, happy and bright little boy and shows no lasting side effects.
“I, as his mummy, however am still undergoing counselling. I lost my voice for four months after we were released from hospital through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have really struggled.
“I’m supporting raising awarness of meningitis as everyone needs to know the symptoms so they can seek medical help fast.”
International charity Meningitis Research Foundation estimates that meningitis and septicaemia affects approx nine people in the UK and Ireland every day.
They are deadly diseases that can strike without warning, killing one in 10 and leaving a quarter of survivors with life altering after-effects ranging from deafness and brain damage to loss of limbs.
Children under five and students are most at risk, but the diseases can strike at any age and not all forms are currently covered by vaccines.
Christopher Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation says: “We’re very grateful to Charlotte for helping raise awareness of meningitis.
“Meningitis and septicaemia are diseases you never expect to happen but her personal experience really brings home how devastating these diseases can be and why it’s so important to be aware of the symptoms and be prepared to act fast when loved ones, family and friends fall sick.”
Vaccines have almost eliminated some types of meningitis but not all of them. Children are currently vaccinated against Hib, MenC and 13 strains of pneumococcal meningitis.
A MenB vaccine (Bexsero) was recommended for infants in the UK in March 2014 and is available privately but a timetable for implementation free of charge on the NHS is yet to be confirmed.
The UK Government has also introduced a new MenC booster campaign aimed at students starting university. GPs can administer the vaccine free of charge until 31 October 2014.
The booster campaign will be repeated every year until 2017.
New students are at increased risk of encountering the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease because they are often living in busy halls of residence and in close contact with other new students during fresher’s week. Students should get immunised at least two weeks before they go away to study.