Small country towns are notorious for gossip and our little town didn't disappoint. Cameron's illness had rocked our town and there was a growing sense of fear. Our town was very small and it didn't help that I knew a lot of the families with young children because I'd run the town's Day Care Centre, established the Kindergarten class at the school and sold children's clothes, books and toys. A lot of the families in town knew us and knew, or knew of, Cameron.
We heard that the town gossip mills were churning and people thought Cameron had become ill because of his vaccinations. This was obviously not true because Cameron was between vaccinations and wasn't old enough for his 6 months immunization yet. Never the less, some mother's took their children out of town to vaccinate them.
Another theory was that the town water had made him sick. Again this was ridiculous because Michael was in charge of testing the town water and he knew for a fact that the water was safe. He would never have allowed us or anybody to consume it if it wasn't. Some families went to the effort of bringing water into town for drinking. People were scared.
There was an outcry in our extended family because I'd obviously had Cameron swimming in the local pool and that was why he had got sick. Again - wrong. I hadn't taken him swimming at all and even if I had the local pool was well maintained and perfectly safe. You can get Amoebic Meningitis from stagnant water but not running fresh water or maintained pool water.
Things became even worse at home when another child was rushed to Perth with Meningitis. I was sitting in our room when a nurse came in and told me that a child from our home town had been flown down with Meningitis. I was stunned, this child was in primary school, I had taught her when I had done relief teaching. I knew the family. My heart started to pound, this couldn't be happening again. I didn't want another family to go through what we had and were going through and especially a family I knew.
The staff knew I would be upset and immediately told me where to find the family. I ran out of the ward in a blind panic. I got to their room and took a breathe. I knocked on the door and was invited in. My brain went into complete confusion. There was the young girl sitting up in bed colouring in. How could that be? I must have had the strangest look on my face.
I calmed down and we caught up on each other's news. Their daughter had become unwell and there had been no doctor in town. Because of Cameron the medical post nurses were up to date with the symptoms of Meningitis and recognized that this child had Meningococcal Meningitis. If it wasn't for their quick thinking this child would have died. The RFDS was called in immediately and she was able to be given the medications she needed.
Meningococcal Meningitis moves through the body very fast and people can die within hours of displaying their first symptoms. If the correct medications are administered quickly people can be saved but the correct diagnosis has to be made first. This little girl was so lucky the nurses had recognized the symptoms.
I explained what had happened to Cameron but I don't think these parents were able to comprehend how lucky they had been. How close they had come to losing their beautiful daughter. I left them with our room number and they promised to drop in and visit before they left the hospital. I went back to our ward dazed, even the staff were surprised when I filled them in on the story.
Back at home the fear escalated and the medical post resorted to publishing a notice in the local paper to try and calm everyone down.
It was nobodies fault that either of the children had got sick. The odds of two children, living in a small country town and both getting sick within weeks of each other, with different unrelated strains of Meningitis was billions to one. This was just incredibly bad luck and the good luck was that neither of them died.