'He went downhill very rapidly' - Parents of boy who contracted meningitis issue warning over symptoms
The parents of a toddler who rapidly fell ill with meningitis have said “they are one of the lucky ones” because he’s made a full recovery.
Dylan Finlay was 21 months old when his parents noticed he was shaking in his cot, delirious, and felt hot on his stomach but cold all over the rest of his body.
Cathriona and Geoff from Galway told the Irish Independent that over the next eight hours, in September 2017, his condition deteriorated, and he lost consciousness, and he was eventually diagnosed with meningococcal septicemia.
“When I went into his room, he was shaking very badly in the cot, he was jerking. It was almost like a seizure.”
“We were waking him out of it and noticed the whites of his eyes were very yellowish. He didn’t have a temperature at the time but his core was very hot. The rest of him was cool.”
Dylan’s parents drove him that night to a doctor who told them that he was displaying signs of viral tonsilitis.
"He had perked up at the doctors after the car journey and the fresh air, and he’d stopped shaking,” Cathriona explained.
“The minute we got him back to the car, he started vomiting very heavily.”
A neighbour’s child had been ill with the vomiting bug, and so Cathriona and Geoff thought that he’d caught it.
“We didn’t know at the time that he was going in and out of, I would say, consciousness. At the time we thought he was just going in and out of sleep.”
“By the morning he was still vomiting and sleeping, and then he’d wake up and be delirious.”
“He's very close to his older sister and she came down and started chatting to him; he didn’t recognise her and that was when I knew something was wrong. He looked very bluish. But we never once thought it was meningitis,” Cathriona explained.
Dylan had been inoculated for meningitis C so his parents didn’t suspect another strain of meningitis. But within a couple of hours, a rash developed on his body.
“My sister sent me the signs and symptoms of meningitis, and she just said strip him down again and check him. We noticed a rash, it was like as if you poured wine on the carpet, and you could see the rash growing before our eyes. It was appearing on his face rapidly.”
“He went downhill very rapidly then. We rang Westdoc and they said to bring him to the GP. The nurse there, one of her best friend’s had died from meningitis, so she knew straight away.”
“The GP gave him an injection and he was put on oxygen and into an ambulance straight away and was taken to the hospital. This was all in the space of 20 minutes.”
Cathriona added: “When we got in, they were very clear, they said it’s looking like bacterial meningitis because of the rash, and they said the next 24 hours are crucial, they’ll tell all.”
By the time Dylan reached the hospital he was unconscious, his temperature was 43, and he had a grey pallor. He had the B meningococcal strain.
Geoff explained: “The doctors were working on him for 20 minutes to a half an hour. Another two doctors came in and worked on him for an hour and a half, they were literally standing over him with a drip, pumping him with antibiotics to try to slow down the pace of infection in his body.”
“After an hour and a half he started to stabilise and they brought him to ICU for another day and a half, and then he went down to the pediatric ward.”
“By 1pm he was conscious again, he was aware, he knew that we were there and he recognised us. Two weeks from that point he was in the hospital. They were keeping a close eye on him,” Geoff recalled.
The family liaise with Galway charity ACT for Meningitis for support, play therapy and craniosacral therapy for Dylan, now 3 years old, who experiences some after-effects.
"We’re definitely one of the lucky ones. In other cases it has been fatal or people have lost limbs.”
“It’s about getting awareness out there. The cases are increasing year on year. Meningitis is very time sensitive - prevention is better than cure. We’d say to people, don’t waste time, go straight to the hospital.”
“It’s usually too late when the rash comes on. Doctors said to us that another half hour or hour would have been crucial.”
Dr John Cuddihy from the HSE’s public health department said prompt medical attention is vital when a patient has meningitis.
“The main thing is for parents to check their childhood immunisation and make sure they’re age appropriately vaccinated. The programme takes five visits to the GP to get the child fully immunised.”
For more information, see https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/