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One week before her 5th birthday, in June 2015, Mea Meyer’s school phoned her mother to say that Mea was vomiting. Zandre fetched Mea immediately as Mea had had a viral rash the week before. At the time, Zandre was booked off herself with bronchitis so she thought she had quite possibly passed her illness on to Mea. Once at home though Mea seemed fine and even had something to eat before playing in her room, however she woke up the next morning running a fever and feeling lethargic. Zandre made an appointment with the doctor but while in the waiting room Mea’s condition visibly worsened and when she started complaining about a headache and an aching body, they rushed off to Sunward Park Hospital.

Mea was admitted to the paediatric unit where a lumbar puncture confirmed that she had Meningitis. Subsequent CT and MRI scans showed Obstructive Hydrocephalus (swelling of the brain), as well as an intracranial brain abscess. Mea lost consciousness and had to be intubated to maintain an open airway, which would also serve as a conduit through which to administer certain medications. An external ventricular drain was also inserted to relieve the pressure on the brain.

Two days later Mea was airlifted to Clinton Hospital’s Paediatric ICU. There another scan established that Mea had also had an ischaemic stroke. A new EVD was inserted and Mea was sedated for the next forty-two hours. Mea was critically ill and suffered multi-organ failure. She was diagnosed with inter alia Streptococcal Meningitis, Obstructive Hydrocephalus, an intracranial abscess, respiratory failure and Septicaemia. Mea underwent surgery to drain the abscess and more MRI and CT scans followed to ascertain the extent of the infection and the damage to the brain.

Next, a G-Tube was inserted directly into Mea’s stomach through which she received her nutrition as she was unable to eat. The G-Tube was later changed to a less obtrusive Mic-Key feeding tube. A surgical opening into the windpipe, called a tracheostomy, was inserted as Mea was unable to breathe on her own. In addition, Mea also required a pacemaker to stabilise her heartrate which suffered autonomic instability/bradycardia when Mea was brought out of sedation.

In August Mea began opening her eyes and by September was saying a few words and able to eat and drink a little orally. Although she was still critically ill, in agreement with her doctors, it was decided that it would be better for Mea to continue recuperating at home. Not only would the environment be more conducive to her healing, but there would be a lower risk of infection as well. After six months in hospital, Mea was discharged on 18 December but was readmitted on 21 December after going into respiratory failure. Mea was discharged again on 9 January and remains on a C-PAP ventilator most of the day, although her family are currently trying to wean her off. Mea’s cognitive development and vocabulary have improved considerably since being at home and she now recognises family members and knows their names. She can also now manage short sentences instead of just isolated words. Mea still suffers from Polyneuropathy (a condition relating to the peripheral nerves which occurs as a result of severe trauma or infection) and Myopathy (skeletal muscle impairment) but according to the EEG reports, rehabilitation is possible.

Our main focus now is to wean Mea off the ventilator so that she may commence rehabilitation, as there are no rehabilitation centres in South Africa which will accept her until she can breathe independently”, says Mea’s mom Zandre.