Ripon tot’s terrifying meningitis battle

Last Christmas morning Ripon mum Joanne Dodsworth faced every parent’s worst nightmare.

Saturday, 19th September 2015, 8:00 am
NARG 1509142AM1 Eve Geldart. Eve Geldart with 19 months old Jacob Dodsworth and his mum Joanne. Picture: Adrian Murray. (1509142AM1)

Instead of watching her children excitedly open presents and enjoying her youngest son’s first Christmas Joanne was rushing to hospital with her sick child in her arms.

“I was very scared. I thought we were losing him,” she said.

Joanne’s youngest son, Jacob, contracted pneumococcal meningitis - a virus causing swelling of his brain and spinal cord. He was just 11-months-old at the time.

NARG 1509142AM3 Eve Geldart. Eve Geldart with her son Isaac(18 mons), her friend Joanne Dodsworth with her sons Jacob (19 mons) and Alfie (5) . Picture : Adrian Murray. (1509142AM3)

“To start with he just had cold symptoms, he just seemed a bit off colour. On Christmas eve we called out of hours and took him to Harrogate hospital who thought he had an infection.

“But then when we woke up on Christmas morning he still wasn’t well, we decided to take him back to the hospital.”

Rather than rushing downstairs with Jacob’s older brother Alfie, 5, to see if Santa had delivered presents, Joanne and her husband Tim were rushing to the hospital.

“He went grey and lifeless in the car, I was terrified, we had to pull over for an ambulance to meet us and I just held him in my arms. His body was shutting down when he got to the hospital. I just didn’t have a clue what was happening or what could be causing this.”

Despite not coming out in a rash, Jacob had meningitis and it took hours before he was stabilised.

The most well-known symptoms of meningitis in children is a red rash which doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it, however the NHS warns that not all symptoms may appear.

Joanne said: “People always ask, did he have a rash? But he didn’t, they don’t always get the rash and I think parents need to be more aware of that.”

Once Jacob’s condition was stabilised he was transferred to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, a 70 mile drive from the family home in Ripon.

The Sheffield Children’s Hospital is one of just four specialist hospitals in the UK which aims to go above and beyond NHS provision in caring for children.

The youngster had fluid on his brain and was in intensive care for several days while doctors fought to save him, before being transferred to the neurosciences ward where he stayed for four more weeks.

Jacob was left profoundly deaf by the illness.

Dad, Tim said: “We were in Weston Park looking at the ducks, and we noticed that unlike normal, Jacob wasn’t reacting to the ducks quacking.

“Usually he would laugh hysterically, but this time he wasn’t reacting at all. It felt like we were turning a corner, he was coming back to us, he was starting to smile, and then our world was shattered all over again when we found out he was profoundly deaf.”

Joanne said: “It was hard realising we couldn’t reassure him and he couldn’t hear us telling him everything will be okay. I was devastated.”

But under the hospital’s hearing department, Jacob was referred for cochlear implants, and underwent surgery in March this year. Now he is a happy, healthy little nineteen-month-old boy who is going from strength to strength.

“The cochlear implants have made a world of difference.

“Both Harrogate and Sheffield hospitals were great, it was his first Christmas, we wanted it to be special but then this.” Joanne said.

“We were in Sheffield for a whole month, it was hard, it was just so far away but they were amazing, there was accommodation for me and my husband so we could stay with him all the time.”

Last Sunday (September 13) Joanne’s best friend, Eve Geldart ran the Great North Run to raise money for The Children’s Hospital Charity to support Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Eve works as a nurse at Harrogate District Hospital and she said: “The treatment has been fantastic. Everyone was there to support the family, to explain things and to guide them through it. It is incredible now to see how far he has come, and his hearing has really improved.

“He is looking around now when he hears things and is recognising sounds. I just want to do this race so I can raise money so the charity can continue helping other children like Jacob. You never know when something like this will happen to you.”

Eve has a son, Isaac who is a couple of months older than Jacob.

She said: “It is so nice to see them playing together, they are little pals.”

Tonya Kennedy, events fundraiser at The Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “A half marathon is no easy feat, and it is brilliant that she has chosen to support us to help other children like Jacob get better more quickly.

“Our hospital is Yorkshire’s only standalone children’s hospital, seeing children from across the region, the UK and further afield. But we couldn’t keep our hospital at the forefront of paediatric care if it wasn’t for the generosity of our donors, like Eve.”

Joanne added: “I was just so touched when Eve told me, we want to raise money to give something back after all they’ve done for us.”

To donate to Eve visit