It was a Saturday afternoon in 1992 in Perth and Mitch who was 9 months old started to get a temperature, I monitored him for a while and then decided to take him to our local doctor as Mitch was prone to ear infections.
On my way to the doctor Mitch vomited everywhere in the car, I couldn’t pull over or do anything as I was in the middle of traffic. We made it to the doctor’s surgery and the nurse took us in and cleaned Mitch up and then the doctor started to examine Mitch. He tested his neck and then examined his ears and prescribed some antibiotics for an ear infection.
I went back home and gave Mitch the antibiotics and kept taking his temperature as it was still quite high. I put him to bed in my room as I wanted to monitor him during the night. It was early hours of the morning and I awoke suddenly I’m not sure why.
The following events are to the best of my recollection as it all happened so quickly and I was in shock and quite overwhelmed.
I looked at Mitch in semi-darkness and noticed his face was a little swollen, I turned on the light and I couldn’t believe how he had puffed out. The left eye socket was so swollen his eye wasn’t opening. He looked like he had done 5 rounds with Mike Tyson. I was staying with my mum and dad at the time so I ran into my mum’s bedroom and woke her up and we went straight to the hospital.
Once we got to the hospital we got put in a cubicle and the doctor’s started to ask questions and examine Mitch. Originally they thought it was something else and they asked another doctor to come and examine him. They took Mitch away for what I thought was an X-ray, it was actually a lumbar puncture.
On return, the doctor told me that he had bacterial meningitis and they informed me that he only had 24 hours to live and if he did make it through the next 24 hours he would have permanent disability on his left side. We got transferred to a private room in front of the nurses’ station where we stayed for about 10 – 12 days.
Once we got to the room, drips were inserted and the bed was tilted to help relieve some of the fluid on Mitch’s brain. My mum had just left to go and get me some clothes and the hospital Chaplin came in to the room and started to give Mitch his “last rights.” I stopped him and told him that he wasn’t going anywhere as he was “my little mate.”
We made it through the next 24 hours and now we had to monitor his progress and try and relieve more fluid from his brain. Every day he made good progress until one day he sat up on his own and the nurses cheered and all came in. From then on Mitch made steady progress and we were allowed to go home. We had follow up appointments to monitor Mitch’s motor skills on his left side of his body.
I was later informed that because of the amount of fluid in Mitch’s head that his left eye was out of the socket on initial examination and this is why his left eye couldn’t open. As Mitch was only 9 months old his fontanelle was still soft and this assisted with his recovery.
I look at Mitch everyday and what he has achieved as a person and reflect on how lucky we are.
Now “my little mate,” is now a professional AFL football player kicking goals in life and for the Geelong Football Club.
Mitch Duncan is also a Co-Ambassador for Meningitis Centre Australia and helps promote the work we do, as well as raise our profile in the football community!
If you have been moved by Julie and Mitch's story, you can help make a difference by donating to Meningitis Centre Australia, to make people more aware of this disease. Go to Meningitis Centre Australia