Meningitis Scare: parents urged to seek help over temperatures

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By CLOE WILLETTS

It's really important to seek help even if it's just a temp, and through a pediatrician, not just a GP.
Megan Batten, Waikanae Beach

Megan Batten gently places her hand across the back of her daughter Ivy's neck, bringing her towards her chest, the newborn gently nuzzling in for warmth before drifting to sleep.

"I feel like it's my responsibility to warn other parents," says Megan, from her Waikanae Beach home.

"If I can bring anything positive from this experience, it's to educate others."

Megan and her husband Rueben, also parents to brothers Brooklyn, 5, and Jett, 3, were thrown into an unexpected nightmare last month when, at just seven days old, Ivy was diagnosed with meningitis.

Born on Thursday, January 26 after what Megan described as a perfect pregnancy and birth, Ivy had been at home one week when her parents noticed she had a temperature.

"She had a temperature of 38 degrees and a little baby's temperature should be around 36 degrees," says Megan, who completed her first year of a nursing degree last year.

"So I took her to the doctors and they looked her over and confirmed she did have a temperature.

"They looked at her belly button in case that was infected, which was fine, so thought the temp might've been caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI)."

The doctor prescribed antibiotics, as well as paracetamol and Ibuprofen to help bring down the temperature, and the family went home.

"He said if the temperature didn't go away we'd need to go into Wellington Hospital but the temperature did go down with the paracetamol, so we thought it was all fine."

The next day however, Ivy's temperature returned.

"The midwife came over and had a look at Ivy and noticed her fontanelle was a little swollen."

Fontanelles, the two soft spots on the top of a baby's head where the skull bones have not yet joined, close at about six to eight weeks and between nine and 18 months.

"The midwife called an ambulance and the next thing we were on our way to Wellington Hospital's Children's Ward, where a pediatrician was waiting on guard since Ivy was so young."

Ivy spent the afternoon having blood tests and a lumbar puncture, which involved a needle being inserted into the lower part of the spine.

The procedure tested for conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system, with samples of Ivy's cerebrospinal fluid taken from inside the spine.

"Days later, the nurses told me that when they did the lumbar puncture, they could tell something was wrong because it's meant to come out as a clear fluid but it had come out quite cloudy.

"They suspected then that it was meningitis."

A few hours later, on Friday, February 3, tests confirmed Ivy had meningitis.

"We were in shock because when you think of meningitis you think of babies loosing limbs and having brain damage.

"It didn't feel real."

It is still unknown which type of meningitis Ivy had, since the initial course of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor prevented the bug from showing up through tests.

"The pediatricians suspect it could've possibly been bacterial and contracted through birth, in the form of Group B streptococcus infection.

"But when pregnant with both my boys, I'd tested negative for it during the test, which they don't do routinely anymore."

Megan says another possibility was viral meningitis, which could have come from the cold sore virus; however the results were negative.

"When they didn't know what type of meningitis it was, they put Ivy on three different types of antibiotics and an antiviral through a drip in her hand."

Fortunately, two weeks later, Ivy was declared healthy and ready to go home.

"It's lucky it was picked up so early because it could've been a lot worse.

"Apparently around 50 per cent of babies with meningitis are affected long-term, from deafness and blindness to brain damage."

With regular follow-up paediatric appointments locked in, Ivy is one of the lucky ones affected by the life-threatening illness, recognised for its acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

"It's scary that as her mother, I didn't think there was anything significantly wrong.

"With meningitis you're warned about a temperature and rash, but she didn't have a rash.

"I want people to know that it's really important to seek help even if it's just a temp, and through a paediatrician, not just a GP."

Megan says, with life finally settling back into routine, the shock was gradually wearing off.

"Even though it was really scary for us and I didn't want to talk about it at the time, I feel like people need to be aware so they can make the right choices.

"You just never know."

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