Boy whose neck hurt ‘because of his pillows’ almost dies from meningitis

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Toby was given just a nine percent chance of pulling through

A little boy survived meningitis after being given just a nine percent chance of pulling through - and his mum shared his “easily overlooked” symptoms. Becky Kennedy, 35, said her “world came crashing down” when her son, Toby, eight, was diagnosed with meningitis in November 2021.

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, before he was rushed to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

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Toby remained in PICU for eight days where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. He 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, said: “At first Toby seemed to have come down with a stomach bug. He was being sick, had a neck ache and a temperature.

“He then started having seizures. His body flapped around and I had to hold his neck up. My friend rushed us to A&E. 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.

“I was in shock- I just didn’t know it was possible for him to have meningitis when he had been vaccinated. I was absolutely distraught that he was brain dead, I just kept asking the nurses if he would survive it. I feel like one of the lucky ones and because so many children don’t make it.

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Toby remained in PICU at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. for eight days where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.Toby remained in PICU at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. for eight days where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
Toby remained in PICU at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. for eight days where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. | Becky Kennedy/ SWNS

After arriving at A&E, medics immediately put Toby to sleep whilst he underwent a CT scan. The doctor saw a cloud of meningitis on his brain but it needed to be confirmed with more testing.

He was then rushed to the PICU at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, with better suited facilities, where he was given a formal diagnosis of viral meningitis. The doctor told Becky her son had just a 9 percent survival.

Toby was kept in intensive care for eight days - after a lumber puncture it was revealed he had bacterial meningitis and he was put onto IVS for eight days- to stop the meningitis spreading.

Becky said: “I was in complete shock- I didn’t know he could still get menigitis after having his vaccinations. I just thought his neck hurt because of his pillows.”

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Toby then spent eight months in hospital - where he learnt to walk and function again. Becky added: “Within a week or two he started to come round, he couldn’t sit up or walk and had to spend a couple of months in a supportive wheelchair and hoist. I just thought: ‘How long am I going to be in this hospital for?’ I had to take it day-by-day.”

Toby Pritchard and brother Theo and mother BeckyToby Pritchard and brother Theo and mother Becky
Toby Pritchard and brother Theo and mother Becky | Becky Kennedy/ SWNS

Toby was able to go home for visits and miraculously on Becky’s birthday - 26th 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. Necky 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. 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.”

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