When her son David contracted meningitis, Annette Barlow knew God would take care of him, as she told Christine Miles.
David Barlow, now aged three years, has always been a little bit of a boy wonder. With two sisters and a host of female cousins, his “boy-ness” is special, if not without its consequences. Yet for parents Paul and Annette, of Auckland, New Zealand, David is a living little “miracle.”
For two days in late 2004 David's temperature spiked suddenly in the afternoon, returning to normal in the evening. Being a concerned mother, Annette took him to the doctor, where no definite diagnosis was made: “He probably has a virus. Keep his temperature down, give him a Panadol, and drink plenty of water.” And she went home.
In December 2004, Annette went to work early in the morning, leaving David still sleeping at home in Paul's care. At mid-morning when she called Paul, David still slept.
This isn't right, Annette thought. And after feeling uneasy all morning, at lunchtime excused herself and went home. In a mother's life, there are moments when alarm bells clang that others don't hear.
“David had just woken when I got home. He didn't protest when I changed his nappy, but I looked into his eyes and I saw total terror,” she says. “In retrospect he must have been in a lot of pain. We rang our doctor, but he was on a long lunchbreak. Something told me that we couldn't wait for an appointment. We were going to the doctor now."
“Of course, when we got to the surgery our doctor wasn't there, and the receptionist told me that I'd need to come back later. But as I stood at the counter with my sick, sick baby in my arms the practice nurse walked through. She took one look at us and said the next doctor available would see us.”
That afternoon David was admitted to hospital with suspected meningitis. “Paul had come with me and we could have driven ourselves, but the doctor insisted on an ambulance."
“It was terrible watching the ambulance personnel putting in IV lines. David was beyond caring about needles, but they had to tell me to look the other way! At the hospital, David was immediately commenced on a wide variety of antibiotics to treat any number of the different forms of meningitis that he might have.”
Annette went home that evening while Paul stayed with David. One of the first things she did was contact her family and friends.
"Hi, Everyone: Please, can you pray for our baby, David. I've just come home from KidzFirst where he's been admitted with meningitis. Paul is with him tonight and I'll swap with him in the morning ...
The results of a lumbar puncture confirmed that David had contracted the Haemophilus influenzae type-b form of meningitis (Hib)."
Hib meningitis is caused by bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type-B. Hib can cause a range of serious illness, most frequently meningitis. It has the same symptoms as other kinds of bacterial meningitis. It affects mainly those under five, but particularly those aged three months to three years. Because of vaccination, Hib is now rare in all age groups, including adults.
In the Western world, at least 95 per cent of people with Hib meningitis recover, but it can be fatal. Most survivors recover with no long-term problems, but as many as one in eight may be left with long-term neurological problems such as deafness, brain damage, problems with coordination and epilepsy. Studies from the US have found neurological problems in as many as 45 per cent of survivors, so, taken together, Paul and Annette had cause to be worried.
Things were grim. David was placed in isolation. He lay in his cot and didn't like to be moved. He slept a lot and the room was kept quite dark. Finally, long days later, David began to improve. “You'll be here for at least 10 days,” the doctor told Annette. “He's going to need intravenous antibiotic treatment for that long.” “We'll let him go home when he can walk in a straight line,” was the next decision.
“Too hard,” Annette said. “He never walks in a straight line.”
On day eight, David was discharged. Follow-up tests indicate that he suffers no damage whatsoever. Annette is happy to give God the glory for baby David's recovery. “Even in my greatest moments of panic,” she says, “I had the overwhelming sense that God was in control.”
Not only has David been spared complications from meningitis, but Annette says she believes God has also saved him from certain accidental injury.
On a summery Sunday evening, a group of friends met at Paul and Annette's home for dinner. David stood on the deck, while Annette hurried to move bikes off the driveway so the car could be parked in the garage. Unusually for David, he walked down the steps onto the gravel driveway, where he stood beside the four-wheel-drive with his hand on a wheel watching his mother.
Paul began to reverse the vehicle. A friend, witnessing an unfolding tragedy, yelled to Paul, as he ran toward the vehicle. “Stop! Stop! he yelled, but too late. The wheel knocked David to the ground."
The friend saw David fall to the ground right into the path of the rear wheel. “It was the worst thing I've ever seen. I never, ever want to see anything like it again.”
But a tragedy was averted. Fortunately Paul stopped. A tyre mark on David's arm was the only evidence that an incident had ever occurred. Later, hugging her baby, Annette thanked God for David's life. “Before I even call on Him, God answers,”* she said.
Annette has a favourite Bible passage, and with all the trouble little David gets into—and out of—it isn't a surprising choice: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:7, 8).
Says Annette, “David has been blessed; we have been blessed.”