‘Chicken pox’ was meningitis

Faye Walker and Jake Reed
Faye Walker and Jake Reed

A FOUR-MONTH-OLD baby was rushed into hospital with deadly brain bug meningitis – just an hour after doctors at the One Life Hartlepool medical centre told his mum he had chicken pox.

Little Jake Reed had a few spots on his chest and was suffering with a high temperature when mum Faye Walker took him to see a doctor.

She was unable to get an appointment in her regular surgery, which is housed within the Park Road-based centre, and was directed to the urgent care facility in the same building.

Faye says a doctor checked over the tot before telling her to treat him with Calpol in an attempt to bring his temperature down.

She claims a second doctor then gave the 19-year-old the same diagnosis when she questioned if Jake definitely had chicken pox.

But within an hour of leaving One Life, Faye had noticed a deterioration in her son’s condition and rang her sister-in-law, Emma Cass, for advice.

When the panic-stricken mum explained he was like “a rag doll” and was shivering with blue lips, Emma rang NHS Direct and an ambulance was immediately sent to take him to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, where he was quickly diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and given a lumbar puncture before spending the next week in the paediatrics ward.

Today Faye, who has lodged a complaint with One Life bosses, has called for action to be taken to prevent any other youngsters being “misdiagnosed”.

Faye said: “To be told by a doctor Jake had chicken pox and then have him in the back of an ambulance with the blue lights on just an hour later is shocking.

“When a doctor tells you what is wrong, you take their word for it. In this instance, I actually had two doctors telling me it was chicken pox.

“I didn’t know it was meningitis, I’m not a doctor, but I thought chicken pox was a common ailment for kids and I just thought this was obviously more serious than that.

“Within an hour he had gone faint in his buggy, he had a raging temperature and was shivering.

“He’d gone like a rag-doll, his head was rolling all over the place and even his lips had gone blue. he was also being sick.

“It was obvious there was something seriously wrong, and as soon as Emma rang the helpline the ambulance was straight there.”

Faye, who lives with partner David Reed, 23, and Jake at their home in Coleridge Avenue in the St Aidan’s area of Hartlepool, spent a full week with the tot in North Tees after he was admitted on October 27.

She added: “When we first got to hospital we were on the children’s outpatients, then we were rushed to paediatrics where he was given a lumbar puncture.

“They said straight away it was meningococcal meningitis.

“To go to that from something as simple as chicken pox is unbelievable.

“Surely patients should be given a more thorough check by doctors before they come to a diagnosis?

“I would hate to think any other family will have to go through what we did with Jake, next time someone may not be as lucky as we were.”

Jake now has regular hospital checks booked in to make sure there is no lasting damage caused by the bug, which can lead to blindness and deafness if not caught and treated early enough.

Speaking on behalf of Assura, the firm which is commissioned to provide walk-in services at One Life by NHS Tees, local GP Dr Daniel Atkinson said: “We understand how distressing it is for parents with young children affected by meningitis and we are pleased to hear that the baby is recovering well.

“The early stages of meningitis can be extremely difficult to diagnose particularly in babies and we are in contact with the patient’s family whose concerns we take seriously.

“Patient safety is of paramount importance and we are conducting a thorough investigation.”


When the bacteria infect the meninges, the blood vessels in the lining of the brain are damaged. This allows the bacteria to break through and infect the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the meninges become inflamed and pressure around the brain can cause nerve damage.

After-effects can include memory loss, behavioural and emotional problems, loss of hearing and sight, and brain damage.


Unusual crying/moaning

A tense or bulging fontanelle

Neck stiffness

A dislike of bright lights

Convulsions or seizures


Call NHS Direct/NHS 24 or your GP.

Go to your nearest accident and emergency department.

Dial 999 for an ambulance.

Describe the symptoms carefully and say that you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia.

Early diagnosis can be difficult. If you have had advice and are still worried, get medical help again.

Trust your instincts.


Babies, toddlers and young children under five are an at risk group for meningitis, with over 50 per cent of all cases occurring in this age group.

With 2,500 cases of bacterial meningitis reported in the UK every year, more than three babies, toddlers or young children will be taken ill with meningitis every day.

Meningitis kills more children under the age of five than any other infectious disease in the UK.

(All information provided by The Meningitis Trust)