Leeds mum raising meningitis awareness after infection leaves eight-year-old son 'on death's door'

A Leeds mum is urging parents to know the signs of meningitis after the infection left her son on “death’s door”.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 18th December 2021, 4:45 am

Lauren Nightingale, 28, was overjoyed when eight-year-old Ewen was discharged from hospital on Thursday after fearing she would lose her “cheeky little boy”.

After suffering with headaches for a few weeks, Ewen was sent home from school on Tuesday December 1 after the pain worsened and he began to feel sick.

Suspecting he was suffering with norovirus or a common bug, Lauren left him to sleep.

Ewen Barron, eight, spent three weeks in hospital after contracting meningitis - but he's now been released in time for Christmas (Photo: Gary Longbottom)

His condition rapidly deteriorated the next morning, when Ewen felt “red hot” and started shaking, being sick and hallucinating.

“That scared me," Lauren, of Bramley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"When I tried to touch him and move him, he was crying and saying his body was hurting him - he couldn’t stand the light either.

"I rang 111 and they said not to move him and to ring an ambulance. But I didn’t think anything like meningitis was going on.”

Ewen's mum, Lauren Nightingale, is raising awareness of the early signs of meningitis after fearing she would lose her boy (Photo: Gary Longbottom)

After being taken to Leeds Children's Hospital, Ewen was sent for a brain scan due to the hallucinations and a worrying temperature of 40.2C.

The scan showed fluid and swelling on the brain caused by meningitis and Ewen and Lauren were isolated in a ward while he underwent three weeks of treatment - including a drip and antibiotics.

Lauren, who is around 20 weeks pregnant, said: “My life was flipped upside down in the waiting room, watching him so out of it. He was so poorly and looked so upset.

"They told me that if I’d not brought him in that day, he’d have been in a coma and never woken up or been severely brain damaged.

“It’s scary because he didn’t have a rash, it just started with a headache. I could have lost him."

To Lauren’s relief, Ewen pulled through and was discharged from hospital a week earlier than expected on Thursday - in time for Christmas.

She praised the “amazing” staff who cared for Ewen in ward L49 of the Clarendon Wing, as well as reassuring the mum-of-two.

Lauren said: “The swelling and fluid is now gone and he’s getting back to the happy, cheeky little boy we know and love.

“You wouldn’t think that nearly three weeks ago he was on death’s door.

"He does have to be careful and it’s left some damage on the right side of his brain which will affect his concentration and behaviour, and they’re a bit concerned about his hearing.

“We’ve just got to keep an eye on him.”

Lauren now wants to raise more awareness about the life-threatening infection and is urging other parents to look out for its early signs.

“It’s the silent symptoms," Lauren added.

"It doesn’t always start with a rash, it can start with normal bug symptoms like sickness and a headache.

“Just make sure you get it checked out. It never crossed my mind that it could be meningitis, the first thing I thought about meningitis was that purple rash that doesn't go away.

“I’m happy that I acted fast and got Ewen seen when I did - or my life could have been so different today.

“If I can help save someone else’s life then I’ll be happy.”

NHS advice: Symptoms of meningitis

Symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and can include:

- a high temperature (fever)

- being sick

- a headache

- a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it (but a rash will not always develop)

- a stiff neck

- a dislike of bright lights

- drowsiness or unresponsiveness

- seizures (fits)

These symptoms can appear in any order. You do not always get all the symptoms.

When to get medical help

You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you're concerned that you or your child could have meningitis.

Trust your instincts and do not wait until a rash develops.

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you or your child might be seriously ill.

Call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you're not sure if it's anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

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