Julieanna’s Journey

February 11, 2008

Delano toddler battles meningitis

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

A dream came true for Brendalee Flint and Jeff Metcalf when they welcomed their daughter into the world.

Their beautiful little girl was given the name Julieanna Metcalf, and is affectionately called Julie or Ju Ju.

With three boys ages 14, 12, and 3 years old, Brendalee was happy to finally have her baby girl. But, this happiness turned to fear when 15 months later, her little angel became very ill.

Initially, Julieanna was vomiting and a little crabby, but didn’t have a fever. After a call to the doctor, Brendalee was told it was probably just a virus, and not to worry.

The next day, Julieanna was only awake for a short time, now had a high fever, but was still taking some fluids.

By the third day, she wouldn’t wake up, refused to drink, and wasn’t having wet diapers.

“I tried to give her a bath and she screamed when I picked her up,” remembered Brendalee. “She didn’t have the strength to hold her head up.”

Once at the emergency room, Julieanna was put on IV fluids for the night. When the doctor visited, she informed Brendalee that her daughter was seriously ill and a spinal tap and CT scan were needed.

Before she realized what was happening, they were in an ambulance and on their way to Children’s Hospital.

Brendalee couldn’t believe it. In just a few days, her little JuJu went from being a healthy 15-month-old, running and laughing, to lying in bed unable to run, laugh, or even smile.

“It happened too fast,” she said. “In a few days, Julie had five seizures, a very bad haircut, brain surgery, five IVs, a seizure with brain surgery, a central line, a catheter, more medication than I can remember, a drainage tube coming out of her head, and around-the-clock nursing.”

The scary and surprising diagnosis was Hib Meningitis.

Days later, Julieanna was taken off the ventilator, and Brendalee was finally able to hold her daughter again.

She admits that, in the past, she has taken every smile, every step, and every movement for granted and now, just the sound of her children’s voices brings tears to her eyes.

“What a wonderful gift I have been given,” she said. “And almost had taken away.”

This has been hard for Julieanna’s dad, Jeff Metcalf, who is unable to be at the hospital every day.

Jeff is an electrician, but has been laid off, and in order to keep his medical insurance, he has been forced to find work out-of-state.

While Brendalee has been staying at the hospital, she has had to take a leave of absence from her job at Applebee’s in Delano, and her family has been helping with her three boys.

Many tests have been performed during Julieanna’s stay at Children’s Hospital, and doctors recently learned that her immune system is not functioning – it hasn’t since the day she was born.

This is what caused her to get Hib Meningitis.

“The doctors are still amazed that she didn’t get sick before this,” Brendalee said. “I guess it’s just one of the mysteries of life.”

Julieanna is presently struggling with her motor skills, unable to play, and even just smiling seems to take effort for her to do.

Brendalee is certain her daughter knows who she is, and has been unable to put her down without hearing cries of protest.

Little Julie is in a lot of pain, has a feeding tube, and a recent CT scan showed a small amount of inflammation still present.

“I must admit I am afraid of what the future holds,” said Brendalee. “The progress is unclear, the future is uncertain.”

During this time the family has many needs, including someone to occasionally sit at the hospital with Julieanna so that Brendalee can spend time with her boys. Help with groceries, daycare for the boys, gas, and bills is in great need.

A Caringbridge.org web site has been established for Julieanna, and Brendalee updates it often. Visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/jujubeek.

If you would like to make a donation to the Julieanna Metcalf benefit fund, please make checks payable to: The Julieanna Metcalf Benefit, and send to the State Bank of Delano, PO Box 530, Delano, MN. 55328.

“I want to thank everyone for the prayers and support we have been getting,” said Brendalee. “Applebee’s has been amazing and told me to take as long as I need, the doctors and nurses at Children’s are amazing, and we are blessed to have the love and support of family and friends.”

What is Hib meningitis?

It is caused by bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type b. Hib meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

In the early stages, a person usually feels unwell, with fever, headache, and vomiting, just like many other mild illnesses.

Typical meningitis symptoms: stiff neck and dislike of bright light normally happen later. As the disease gets worse, the person affected may become sleepy and difficult to wake, confused or delirious, and may have seizures.

They may refuse to feed and be irritable, with a high-pitched or moaning cry, especially when you pick them up. The soft spot on a baby’s head may be tense or bulging.

The infection is found only in humans, and lives temporarily in the back of the nose and throat. It is spread through close contact with mucus or droplets from the throat of someone who carries the bacteria.

Hib bacteria are too fragile to live outside the human body. Although it is not known exactly how long they can survive outside, it is known that, in general, prolonged close contact is necessary to pick up the bacteria.

Only a small fraction of the people who acquire the bacteria fall ill with the disease, and the reasons for this are not entirely understood.

People with a deficient immune system, such as those without a spleen, are at higher risk.

Information from meningitis.org.

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail news@hjpub.com