My heartfelt thanks for your Health column on the new vaccine for meningitis ("A Shot in the Arm," by doctors Michael S. Wilkes and Miriam Schuchman, Sept. 16). In 1988, I too was a woman who "ran in with a limp child" into a hospital. My then 17-month-old daughter, Lauren, had been sent home earlier in the day by my pediatrician, who diagnosed her condition as a "bad bug." Even after I explained the high fever, listlessness and absence of both urine and tears and asked for saline to be administered, she was given penicillin and I was told to "monitor" her. I do not know why I didn't create more of a fuss, but I took the prescription and drove home.
Once home, I had my sitter check Lauren every 15 minutes while I went out to get the medicine. After I came back, I went upstairs to look in on her. I remember this next moment in slow-motion: I looked into her crib and saw my daughter dying. Her once cherubic face was sunken and ashen. She did not respond to me and her neck seemed stiff. I then headed to the hospital.
A wonderful and caring intern, whose name I so wished I could remember, examined her for what seemed less than a minute and then asked, "Why didn't you take her to your pediatrician?" He automatically ordered a spinal tap. After the tests had been completed, he diagnosed bacterial meningitis and told me she probably would have slipped into a coma several hours later.