Mami Mondays: Wrapping Our Heads Around Meningitis

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I want to introduce you to Ann and a cause that is very near and dear to her heart. Read on... My name is Ann Johnson.  I am a wife and mother to our five years old son and a little angel girl in heaven.Maya_Family

My most recent endeavor is the formation of the Maya A. Johnson Foundation, Inc. The foundation serves to educate families and support children who survive the disease. It has already raised $7,000.

Maya_MommyIt was established on February 25, 2015 to honor the memory of our beautiful baby Maya A. Johnson who was born on June 27, 2014. It was on 1st January 2015 when Maya was only six months old that she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Maya did not survive her battle with the deadly disease due to complications. She lost her precious life on January 16, 2015. She was a bundle of joy to us and in a very brief amount of time she touched the lives of everyone around her. Maya A. Johnson Foundation, Inc. has been established to continue spreading joy and happiness to families that has been affected by meningitis and that’s how her legacy will live on!

I want to spread the word about what this is and what to look for so another mom doesn’t have to experience the crushing loss that I have had.

What Is Bacterial Meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain or the spinal cord. However, it can also occur as a result of an infection such as ear or sinus infection or a drug reaction. Rarely does it happen after some surgeries. Meningitis can occur at any age however it commonly occurs in children and infants.

What Are Known Risk Factors?

  • Incomplete vaccinations: if your child has not completed the recommended vaccination schedule, s/he is more susceptible to meningitis.
  • People under the age of 20 are at a higher risk of meningitis especially if they are living in community settings, boarding schools, military bases etc. People living in such settings are at a higher risk of meningitis because bacterium is spread by the respiratory system and quickly where there are large groups of people.
  • If you are a pregnant woman and you have listeriosis, an infection caused by listeria bacteria that may also cause meningitis, your unborn baby is also at a risk of meningitis.
  • A weakened immune system caused by alcohol, diabetes, and immunosuppressant drugs etc. can make you more susceptible to meningitis.

Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis:

The early symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be like other childhood illnesses. The big difference? A baby will get ill quickly and will be hard to comfort even when picked up. Here are some other signs:

  1. A child may have fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and in some cases seizures and photophobia.
  2. The child may have a preceding upper respiratory infection or pneumonia.
  3. The child may become irritable due to severe headache.
  4. One-third of the children may have seizures which may be recurrent and prolonged.
  5. Confusion and decreased level of consciousness in the child.
  6. The nerves that control some eye and facial movements may be damaged or the facial expression may become lopsided.
  7. Lethargy
  8. Skin rashes
  9. Vomiting
  10. Nausea
  11. Dizzy spells
  12. A high pitched cry

An early diagnosis of meningitis is detrimental to treat the disease and to stop it from getting worse. Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency, so if you think your child has any form of meningitis, you should immediately see the doctor.

The doctor will order laboratory test to help make the diagnosis. The test will help to determine if there are bacteria present and which antibiotic is best for the child. In some cases, a CT scan will be recommended to determine the conditions resulting to the child’s symptoms. If bacterial meningitis is diagnosed, doctors will start intravenous antibiotics and the child will be closely monitored to detect any serious complications of meningitis. Complications of bacterial meningitis can be severe and the heart, kidney and adrenal glands may be affected.

While children do recover completely with no long-term complications, it is so important that this is caught early. It has the possibility of causing damage to the brain and can cause a myriad of issues from learning disabilities to abnormal development. Impaired hearing is the most common complication of bacterial meningitis so a hearing test should performed at the time of discharge.

The most effective way to protect your child from bacterial meningitis is to complete the recommended vaccine schedule. Following good personal hygiene and maintaining healthy habits helps prevent susceptibility to meningitis. This is especially important for young infants and people with weakened immune system.

I know this seems like a lot of jargon. Thank you for reading this far! Our ability to touch and assist other families that have been affected by meningitis brings us joy and contentment. Our goal is to empower families and to provide information to educate everyone about meningitis in order to understand the early signs of meningitis.

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I can’t say this enough: early diagnosis of meningitis is very important to stop it from getting worse. We also offer opportunities for families of children that have survived meningitis to receive financial assistance and support.  Help us with our mission by spreading the word of awareness.  The Maya A. Johnson Foundation, Inc. thank you for supporting us on our journey! If you have any questions please contact us at www.mayajohnson.org.