A toddler who contracted deadly meningitis has come home for Christmas with his family after a three-month hospital stay.
Two-year-old Elijah Bell, from East Kilbride, spent three months in Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children in an induced coma as medics scrambled to save his life.
But the brave tot walked out of hospital holding his parents’ hands last week despite fears he would never walk or talk again.
Mum Natalie and dad Jamie thanked medical staff for helping bring Elijah back to health.
“We are so grateful to have Elijah here with us,” Natalie said.
“We are looking forward to the next few weeks of Christmas visits and events, followed by a quiet day at home, just the four of us.”
Elijah first became unwell on September 23 2023 when he had a spike in temperature.
At first, it was suspected that he had a viral infection, followed by tonsilitis due to his symptoms.
He quickly began to deteriorate and could barely stand. His concerned GP referred him to Wishaw General Hospital.
At hospital, Elijah’s condition worsened and he was sleepy to the point of unconscious.
After tests, it was confirmed that Elijah had pneumococcal bacterial meningitis.
He was put on antibiotics and after five days, started to show a little bit of progress.
Natalie said: “He was getting on top of his infection, but then on day six, he completely deteriorated, and he started having seizures. It was at this point we were transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.
“When we arrived, the team placed him in an induced coma for two days to try and get control of the seizures and prevent any further brain damage. We thought we were going to lose him.
“We had no idea what was going to happen, and we have never been so scared in our entire lives.
“After a few days, the doctors removed his tubes and he was able to breathe on his own, but he was still very much asleep and unconscious, to the point where he was unable to open his eyes for days in the paediatric intensive care unit.”
The neurologist advised that Elijah had suspected areas of stroke due to vasculitis as a complication of meningitis.
After five days in PICU, Elijah was moved to the neurology ward, but he was sleeping about 90% of the day.
Another scan showed that he had hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in the brain that increases the pressure.
Elijah then had an external drain fitted to his head to help drain this.
Prior to having the surgery, he had right-sided weakness because of the areas of stroke. He couldn’t move his right leg or arm.
After he had the fluid drained, he began to move his right leg again.
The drain was in for around two weeks. On October 31, he had further brain surgery, and a shunt was fitted for life.
Natalie said: “It was at this point that we saw a big improvement in him.
“After his post-surgery recovery, he had intense neuro rehabilitation which included daily physio, speech and language, occupational therapy and daily visits from different doctors as well. He made amazing progress.
“At this point we were allowed home for visits and Elijah took a couple of steps unaided in the house which was amazing. We couldn’t believe he was able to walk. The doctor was lost for words.”
The home visits had helped Elijah’s recovery so much that the hospital team decided that he would make more progress at home full time.
Elijah was officially discharged on the December 7 2023.
Natalie said that the family now has the future to look forward to thanks to Elijah’s treatment, medical team, and determination.
She said: “We have been staying in Ronald McDonald House the last few months. One of us would stay with Isaac and the other with Elijah. We would switch each night.
“The first weekend we got home, you would have thought it was Christmas Eve in our house. When the boys woke up the next day, our Christmas tree was up, and it was all snowy outside. It really was magical.
“We owe the medical team at the Royal Hospital for Children. They saved our son.
“Ronald McDonald is also an amazing facility and helped us so much.
“They made us feel so welcome from the moment we arrived.
“We may not stay miles and miles away, but we had no idea how Elijah was going to be health wise and being able to be only a few minutes from the hospital was truly amazing.
“We also want to say that that we are beyond proud of our brave boy. He has shown the true meaning of strength and courage, and we love him so much.
“Thank you to everyone who was involved in saving Elijah’s life, we will be eternally grateful to you all,” she said.
Shuko Joseph, Consultant in Paediatric Neurology at the Royal Hospital for Children said: “It was our great privilege to be part of Elijah’s recovery journey as part of the neurology- neurorehabilitation team.
“The family endured such challenging time with incredible resilience, strength, and hope. It is so wonderful to hear the family is getting on well at home especially at such a special time of year.
“Such recovery has been a credit to Elijah and family’s wonderful efforts and excellent engagement with therapy sessions and would not have been possible without the expertise of the PICU staff, ID team, neurosurgical staff, neurology ward staff, nurse specialists and neurorehabilitation therapists. We are so grateful for everyone involved in Elijah’s recovery.”
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