Abscess: Jessie and Lisa

Jessie was seven when she suffered an abscess on right frontal lobe of her brain which resulted in a brain injury. Here, Jessie’s mum, Lisa shares their story.

Published: March 2017. Date of brain injury: September 2013 (child aged 7 years).
Jessie tells the Brain Injury Hub her story

Falling ill

On returning from a holiday in Spain in September 2013, my daughter Jessie then aged 7, felt extremely tired following the late night flight. The next day she complained of a mild headache and continued to sleep for hours at a time during the day. Things got progressively worse over the next week and I took her to the GP twice, to be told that it was just a virus. Jessie continued to decline over the next few days and then started to vomit. So, on yet another trip to the GP, I insisted that bloods be taken as I knew there was something seriously wrong, and I felt the GP just wasn’t listening to me.

Getting a diagnosis

Within the hour, we had the call to say an ambulance was on its way. Once in hospital she had a lumbar puncture and because her spinal fluid was cloudy she was treated for meningitis. After five days and no improvement, the meningitis cultures came back negative. It was only then that she was scanned and an abscess the size of an egg was found in her brain, which had completely displaced her right frontal lobe.

Being in hospital

She was transferred immediately to the specialist paediatric neurological surgery unit at Oxford. The neuro-surgeons performed a craniotomy to drain the infection, while the ENT surgeons went in through her nose. Unfortunately the abscess filled up again and again, and Jessie had to have three further operations, each time at more risk. That said, Jessie had no seizures or strokes whilst in hospital, and despite severe headaches, she remained cheerful and determined to get well. She became a strong emotional support to other children on the ward who weren’t coping so well.

Returning home 

After many weeks in hospital and with me spending every moment by her side, Jessie and I came home. She went back to school part time, but had to have six months of community nursing to administer her IV antibiotics. She struggled emotionally since she wasn’t allowed to do any activities due to her craniotomy injury and her antibiotic PICC line. We saw excessive behavioural changes, which as a family we didn’t fully understand at the time. We were just trying to cope from day to day and I was trying to hold down a full time job, as I still had a mortgage to pay on my own. The medical condition had been treated, but we were very ill prepared for the emotional fall out, especially for Jessie’s sister, Perrie, who is two years older. She really took the brunt of it and it was such an incredibly tough time for her. The grief and emotional strain at the time was all consuming.

Three years on

It is three and a half years on now and Jessie still has extreme migraines and non-epileptic seizures, but we are learning to cope with new behaviours and have some strategies to minimise them. Jessie is in mainstream school, and while her frontal lobe injury does affect concentration and memory amongst other things, she applies herself well and is popular with her peers. Jessie is an awesome young lady, as is her sister, Perrie, who is now a great support for Jessie. I’m truly blessed that I have two daughters that make my heart swell, I am so proud of them. Sure, Jessie does have anxieties about how her injury will affect her in the future, and now at age 11 she is moving into adolescence, which is hard enough anyway even without additional complications, I think. I myself, feel positive about the future after accepting my PTSD, and Perrie wants to become a child psychologist/therapist at which she will be wonderful.

Sharing with others 

Thank you for letting me share our story. It has helped so much to know that we were/are not alone, and that the feelings and emotions that we have had are normal, expected even, and nothing to be ashamed of.
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