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I thought my boy had a tummy bug – his symptoms could have left him ‘brain dead’


A LITTLE boy who had what looked like a common tummy bug almost died of a killer condition after being left paralysed and unable to speak.

Becky Kennedy, 35, said her “world came crashing down” when her son, Toby, eight, was diagnosed with the killer disease in November 2021.

The schoolboy first came down with a high temperature and what Becky thought was a stomach bug

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The schoolboy first came down with a high temperature and what Becky thought was a stomach bugCredit: SWNS
Toby had to use a wheelchair but has since started walking again

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Toby had to use a wheelchair but has since started walking againCredit: SWNS
Toby, with mum Becky and baby brother, Theo

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Toby, with mum Becky and baby brother, TheoCredit: SWNS

The schoolboy first came down with a high temperature and what Becky thought was a stomach bug.

Worried mum-of-four Becky took her son to The Great Western hospital A&E, Swindon, Wiltshire, before he was rushed to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

Toby remained in PICU for eight days where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

The killer condition causes inflammation of the lining around your brain and spinal cord.

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It can be very serious if not treated quickly.

Toby was paralysed and lost the use of the left side of his body, legs and arms and his ability to speak.

The little lad – who now has the mental capacity of a two-year-old – spent eight months in a high dependency unit at the hospital – where he learnt how to walk again.

Toby is now “doing well” and in special education but it has been a long-recovery and his mum has urged other parents to look out for the early warning signs of meningitis.

Becky, a full time carer, from Swindon, Wiltshire, said: “At first Toby seemed to have come down with a stomach bug.

“He was being sick, had a neck ache and a temperature,” she said.

“He then started having seizures – his body flapped around and I had to hold his neck up.

“My friend rushed us to A&E,” she added.

“He had a CT scan and they could see a cloud of what they thought was meningitis but he was transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital for more testing,” she explained.

Testing later confirmed Toby had the killer illness.

The doctor told Becky her son had just a 9 percent survival.

The mum said she was in “shock” as Toby had been vaccinated against the disease.

“I was absolutely distraught that he was brain dead, I just kept asking the nurses if he would survive it,” she said.

“I feel like one of the lucky ones and because so many children don’t make it.

The 8 signs of meningitis you need to know

The symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and 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.

Source: NHS England

Toby was able to go home for visits and miraculously on Becky’s birthday – 26 February – he took his first steps since the illness struck.

She said: “It was amazing, it was the best birthday present I could have ever wished for.

“He went back to the ward and showed off to the nurses – they couldn’t believe it.”

Toby can now eat and drink after months of being tube fed and has learnt to say ‘mum’ and ‘no’ again and ‘yeah’ and can communicate non verbally.

Becky added: “He walks beautifully and he doesn’t need his wheelchair.

“He has lots of therapy at school and using his left leg more is his next milestone.”

She added: “Every time he recovers a little bit, it puts a smile on my face. He’s a cheeky monkey and he loves winding up his new little baby brother, Theo.”

In June, parents were urged to look out for the signs of the deadly illness as cases rose.

How do you get meningitis?

Meningitis is usually passed on from people who carry the virus or bacterial form in their throat or nose, but aren’t ill themselves.

It can be spread through kissing, sneezing, coughing and sharing household items such as toothbrushes or cutlery.

It is thought that the bacteria are able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat during winter due to recent infection with flu virus.

The illness can be caught from someone who is ill with meningitis but this is more rare.

There are several types of vaccinations to prevent against the disease, which can be given to babies as young as eight weeks

What is the treatment for meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis, which is more dangerous, needs to be treated in hospital for at least a week.

Patients will receive antibiotics, fluids and oxygen.

If it is treated quickly then the prognosis is good, but patients can be left with serious long-term problems including blindness, deafness, loss of limb due to sepsis, problems with memory and concentration, recurrent seizures and problems with co-ordination and balance.

Ten per cent of cases result in death.

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Viral infections are less serious and tend to get better on their own within 10 days with plenty of rest and pain killers, but you should always seek medical advice first.

If you think someone has meningitis you should seek urgent help – in an emergency, always dial 999.





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