May 23, 1989 - December 3, 2000
On December 1, 2000 my daughter got up to get ready for school. She complained of having a sore throat. Being it was Friday and she looked tired I asked her if she wanted to stay home. She agreed. Brittany was very mature for her 11 years. Being a single mom I had to go to work and she assured me she would be fine, her brother and sister were in highschool and needed to be there. I phoned Britt every half-hour to check on her. By lunchtime her voice sounded really hoarse so I asked her older sister to stay home. I finally arrived home at 6:30 that evening, by now Britt was throwing up, I did my best to make her comfortable. I took her temperature and it read 38.8.
At about 7 p.m. Stephanie called me into the living room as she had noticed a rash on Britt and Britt said it was itchy. Kids in the neighborhood had thechicken pox, so we assumed that this is what it was. I wiped Britt down with a powder solution that you mix with water. She kept trying to eat some chicken noodle soup, but she could not keep it down. At 9:30 she asked to go to bed. Her sister took her down to the room they shared and she went to sleep.
The next morning our nightmare/journey began. At 7:00 a.m. Stephanie woke me up and there was something to her voice that made me jump out of bed. I ran downstairs to find Brittany on the couch shivering. She still had no fever. Stephanie had heard her from their bedroom, trying to call me from the bottom of the stairs. Stephanie had found her at the bottom of the stairs trying to get to me. Brittany could not walk and barley had enough strength to call my name. I checked her legs as she was complaining of her right leg hurting. It was at this point that I noticed her rash had almost completely disappeared and now looked like pinpricks. Brittany was hallucinating a lot. We rushed her to the hospital, which was 15 minutes away. The ride seemed to take forever as this is where Britt started to feel pain and she begged me to get her help as she said it felt like someone was shooting her brain.
We arrived at McMaster Hospital in Hamilton at approximately 8 a.m. They took her in right away. She could barley stay awake during the intake with the nurse. The doctor came in and examined her a short while later. His first words were that her rash did not look like a meningitis rash. This was the first time I had heard the word meningitis, and that there were no reported cases of meningitis in the area. We learned the day of the funeral that there had been another case with that child being in the same hospital and released the day before Britt came in. They took blood tests and that was when I realized something was not right, as Britt did not even flinch. It was shortly after that that Britt had a seizure. I wasn´t sure that´s what it was at that time. I informed the nurse immediately that something was not right with my daughter. She said she would let the doctor know. 15 minutes later Britt went into another major seizure and I tried to get her to respond and hold her so that she would not rip out her IV. Once again I informed the nurse.
Again Britt went into a seizure only this one was very violent as she almost threw me over the bed. At this point I ran out into the hall only to see the nurses standing around chit chatting. I screamed for help and for some one to come to my daughter, as something was terribly wrong. Nurses and doctors rushed into the room and took my daughter with me by her side into the trauma room. There they worked on her. Every time she had a seizure they would give her Valium and she was having one every couple of minutes, when they could not control it that way they tried Dilantin, which I questioned. I stood there and watched them work on my daughter. They asked me if I had anyone with me and I said no. It was at that point that I noticed that Britt was choking on her tongue and I pointed out to the nurse. They put a tube down her throat. They told me to call my family, as we were waiting for her to have a CAT scan.
I went out and phoned my daughter at home and told her to get hold of my parents who were in Florida, and to call her brothers and uncle. At about 1 or so Britt went down for her CAT scan. I waited outside the door. It seemed like an eternity before the doctors came out.
Once again they asked if I had anyone with me, it was then I knew in my heart it was not good. They got the Chaplain, and I asked them to tell me before Britt´s brothers and sisters arrived. They basically told me Britt´s chances of survival were slim that her brain had swelled so much that it had imploded. I was devastated, but I knew I had to be strong to face her siblings. The doctors told me that they were pretty sure it was bacterial meningitis, and that we would have the results the following morning. Their plan was to keep her on life support. Her brothers and sister were devastated, but we stood strong. We phoned family and friends and took turns at her bedside praying for a miracle.
The next morning we had a meeting with public health, and infectious diseases and it was confirmed that Brittany had meningitis type C and that she was brain dead. The doctors made the decision to turn off life support. We asked if they could keep her going until her grandparents arrived. The doctors allowed us to do that. It broke my heart to go into the room and see my baby laying there, a child who had so much going for her, knowing that I did not have much time left with her. My parents finally arrived about 6:30 on the Sunday evening. It hurt so much to watch my parents crying. At 8:00 p.m. all of my family gathered by Britts bedside and I asked to hold my daughter. Brittany passed away that evening around 8:30.
Her death has left a hole in my heart as well as many unanswered questions. The main one being is why public health does not feel it is necessary to inform the public until after the third case is confirmed within a 10-day period. Why did that doctor tell me that there had been no reported cases of meningitis when a child who had almost died was released from that very hospital the day before my daughter´s arrival. And because meningitis can resemble a cold/flu symptoms why are our children not vaccinated against it, and why are more doctors not knowledgeable about this disease that strikes so quickly.
Our family feels like a piece is missing from our lives. My hope is that as I slowly come to terms with my grief of losing my youngest child to this awful illness, that we can get more information to the public especially in the school system to make people more aware of the signs and symptoms. Our family and friends and especially Brittany´s school and her many friends help give us the strength to carry on. Britt´s school planted a tree in her memory, along with another tree for a schoolmate who had lost his battle to cancer. Britts school also started a Brittany L. Crawford Award that is given to a grade 6 student every year.
Rose Crawford (Brittany´s Mom) firstname.lastname@example.org