My name is Kathy Dowdy and I am the mother of a child that suffered Pneumococcal (bacterial) meningitis, a vaccine preventable disease. First of all I congratulate those on the work they do to protect our children and adolescents from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. I am encouraging recommendations for the meningitis vaccine for infants and adolescents so that they can be protected from this horrible disease that took my son’s hearing. This disease is easily preventable. The Prevnar vaccine protects against Pneumococcal meningitis, and is given at 2,4,6,and 12 months of age. The Menactra vaccine protects against Meningococcal (also bacterial) meningitis, and is generally given to teens. Efforts are being made to allow this vaccine to be given to much younger children.
On January 21, 2009, my son Keller awoke vomiting and with a high fever. We took him to the pediatrician, who ordered a complete blood count (CBC) and blood culture. The pediatrician recommended a shot of the antibiotic Rocephin, due to a high amount of a certain white blood cell in the CBC. He received a second injection the next morning, and even showed improvement upon a repeat of his CBC. Unfortunately he got much worse that day, and my husband rushed him to the ER. Dehydrated and showing classic signs of meningitis, the doctor performed a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) that night. On January 24, 2009, Keller was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis. He had developed an ear infection two days prior because he was exposed to a strain of Streptococcus pneumonaiae not yet covered in the Prevnar series.
Keller was rushed by ambulance to a better equipped hospital in South Carolina on January 24, 2009, at 4:00 am to treat this illness. CT Scans and daily blood draws were completed. Regrettably, on January 26, 2009, Keller suffered a seizure which resulted in seven mini strokes confirmed by an MRI. He spent four days in ICU not able to breathe on his own, was intubated and heavily sedated. Keller was finally discharged February 11, 2009.
Prior to this illness, he was a happy, healthy, strong seven month old that was starting to crawl. This life-threatening experience resulted in Keller’s motor skills being severely hampered. He would have to relearn all the basic motor skills for a child his age which requires extensive physical therapy.
Not long after Keller’s release from the hospital, I noticed Keller didn’t respond to shaking toys around his head. He didn’t respond when I ran the vacuum. Then I engaged the fire alarm. Unfortunately, in addition to losing his basic motor skills, a brain test revealed no reaction to sound. The Bacterial Meningitis had robbed Keller of his hearing. Keller had bilateral hearing loss.
Counselors talked us through our options and on April 8th, 2009, surgeons implanted bilateral cochlear implants in my strong, amazing little guy. Through this medical miracle, he hears again with this hi-tech hearing device. Keller continues to receive hearing and speech therapy as he learns to adapt the sounds to his surroundings.
Keller has regained his strength and is actively walking and running. His charming and sweet personality has already started to re-emerge as he moves forward with this learning experience. Keller is one of the lucky ones. We are so very blessed. Keller still faces many challenges – pervasive developmental disorders and language delays. But he is our miracle – truly an earth bound angel.
Currently, Keller is attending Building Futures Autism Clinic for his PDD. Even though he has only been there 3 short weeks – we have seen a tremendous transformation in him. His sign language is improving, he is making terrific eye contact, and verbalizing much more. It is quite apparent that children with any type of spectrum disorder benefit so much more with ABA. We are so very happy to have such a wonderful clinic in Myrtle Beach. We are looking forward to Keller blossoming there!