Mum's warning on the dangers of meningitis
A MOTHER has spoken of her "constant battle" since her son contracted meningitis and warned parents to be aware of its symptoms.
Lucy Urquhart's son Hamish, who is now two years old, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis six months ago, and became deaf as a result.
She is now supporting Meningitis Awareness Week which was launched today by The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) and will run until Sunday September 23.
The week aims to raise the profile of the condition, which affects around 3,600 people in the UK and Ireland annually.
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"Mine and Hamish's lives are now completely different and it's a constant struggle to access all the services we need," said single mother Lucy.
"My message to others would be to be completely aware of meningitis symptoms and if your child is seriously ill trust your instincts and push for a diagnosis."
The Meningitis Research Foundation said meningitis and septicaemia can strike anyone without warning, killing one in ten, and leaving a quarter of survivors with life altering after-effects ranging from deafness and brain damage to loss of limbs. Lucy took Hamish to see doctors twice and to hospital twice before the fast-acting and potentially fatal disease was diagnosed. Hamish ended up deaf and has since undergone five hours of surgery for cochlear implants to be inserted into his head.
Lucy now faces the prospect of learning sign language, sourcing funding, endless hospital trips and thinking of where best to place Hamish in school.
"Hamish is amazing and just an incredible child as he's coped so well. But trying to get appointments to see specialist such as for language and speech has been tough and now I've been told he might have behavioural problems but haven't been given much information."
Lucy added that charities, such as the Meningitis Trust and the Deaf Children's Society, had been "fantastic".
"I have had most of my support through meningitis charities so I'm full supporting meningitis week."
MRF works to explore the impact of the diseases in its project Counting the Cost of Meningitis and estimates that the life-long costs to the UK Government of medical treatment and ongoing care for a person seriously disabled by the disease are around £3million. As a result the charity launched a petition last year calling on the UK Government to pursue the widest and earliest implementation of vaccines to prevent all types of meningitis and septicaemia.
Christopher Head, Chief Executive of MRF said: "There is currently no vaccine for meningococcal B disease which is responsible for the majority of cases of disease in the UK and Ireland. Nearly 18,000 signed our petition and this week it has been presented to 10 Downing Street, so thank you to everyone who supported us. However we must remember that vaccines do not prevent all strains of meningitis and septicaemia yet, so it's vitally important that the people of Devon are MeningitisWise and remain aware of the symptoms." To find out more about the symptoms visit the MRF website on www.meningitis.org or download the free iPhone App from: www.bit.ly/MRFapp
SYMPTOMS for septicaemia and meningitis can be hard to spot. They can appear in any order.
MENINGITIS: fever and/ or vomiting, severe headache, rash, stiff neck, dislike for bright lights, very sleepy, vacant and difficult to wake, confused, delirious and possibly seizures.
SEPTICAEMIA: fever and/ or vomiting, rash, very sleepy, vacant and difficult to wake, confused, delirious, limb/ muscle/ joint and muscle pain, cold hands and feet/ shivering, pale and mottled skin and fast breathing/ breathlessness.