Health

'Bacterial Meningitis Is Like A Demon Thing': N.J. Family Mourns The Loss Of 5-Year-Old Girl

| by Jared Keever

A 5-year-old New Jersey girl has died of bacterial meningitis just days after falling ill. 

Lilyana “Lil” Fernandez, of Cape May Court House, died Friday, the Press of Atlantic City reports. 

Just days earlier she had been a seemingly healthy girl who had just started to complain of an ear ache. 

“It’s the scariest thing in the world,” her mother, Sharon Decker, told the Press of Atlantic City on Monday. “I still can’t believe it happened. She got an ear infection, and the wrong germ got in her.”

Her condition deteriorated rapidly with her local doctors trying everything they knew to do.

“They did the antibiotics from the wide spectrum, from the one end to the other,” Lilyana’s grandmother, Tammy Decker, told WPVI News. “It was a chase, they didn't really know what it was.”

Meningitis can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. It occurs when the infection somehow spreads to the spinal cord and inflames the meninges, the thin membranes around the cord and brain. Viral meningitis is more common, according to the Press, but rarely fatal. Bacterial meningitis is considered more dangerous and sometimes fatal in children and infants. 

After about five days of trying to treat what everyone thought was a simple ear infection, Lilyana became more and more difficult to wake up and get out of bed. Simple over-the-counter medications weren’t lowering her fever, her mom said. 

After numerous doctor and hospital visits, Sharon rushed her daughter back to the hospital one last time. While loading the girl into her car seat, Sharon noticed her daughter had no sense of equilibrium and her left eye was drooping “like a lazy eye,” she told the Press.

Doctors now say Lilyana likely had a stroke. She was airlifted form the New Jersey hospital to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she underwent surgery Sunday night to relieve pressure on her brain.

Her mom said the surgery went well but Lilyana never regained consciousness before dying Friday. 

Now the family is left coping with the loss of the young girl and the mounting end-of-life costs.

“Bacterial meningitis is like a demon thing,” Sharon told the Press. “It’s horrible. Nobody should have to go through this, ever.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family. 

According to Sharon, doctors think Lilyana likely contracted a strain of the bacteria streptococcus pneumonia. That’s not uncommon and it’s rarely fatal. 

“Strep pneumonia can be found in 20 to 40 percent of children,” Natalie Sendler, a Cape May County nursing director, told WPVI. 

But having the bacteria in one’s body does not necessarily mean a person will develop meningitis, she explained to the Press. 

Sources: Press of Atlantic City, WPVI News, GoFundMe for Lilyana’s family

Photo credit: Submitted photo via Press of Atlantic City, GoFundMe