Meningitis took my toddler son 'in hours'

Meningitis took my toddler son 'in hours'

A paramedic has described how his young son died from meningitis in front of his eyes within hours of being gripped with the killer disease.

Robbie Sheehan complained of feeling unwell and cold one Saturday night in April 2007 after spending the day playing with his cousins.

By early Sunday morning the happy and healthy toddler, who was two years and eight months old, was seriously ill in hospital.

His heartbroken father David said 24 hours later his son was pronounced dead in intensive care in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital.

The 43-year-old revealed they were in the family room with relations when a nurse burst in saying she needed Robbie’s parents.

“We ran after her and just as we went through the doors of intensive care I could see the consultant doing compressions on his chest,” Mr Sheehan said.

“There were 15 to 16 people in the cubicle working on him.

“I knew from my training they were pumping in adrenalin and following procedure.

“The consultant said: ’I think we should let him go, I think we should stop now’.

“I said: ’I think you’re right’.

“Within 30 seconds they had most of the tubes and leads out of him and the room was cleared and we sat there with him.”

Little Robbie died at 6.20am on the Monday morning.

Meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord, which can also pass into the bloodstream causing septicaemia.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, severe headache, rash, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, seizures and a high pitched squeal in infants - similar to flu-like conditions.

Almost 250 people are diagnosed every year, with one in 10 losing their life.

Mr Sheehan and wife Yvonne, from Moone in Co Kildare, were expecting their second child Daniel when Robbie died, and have since had daughter Leah.

While his son could not have been saved, Mr Sheehan called on parents to spot the signs to avoid going through the same nightmare.

“Life is not meant to be like that, your kids are meant to bury you,” he added.

“When your child dies in front of you there’s something wrong in the world.”

The couple support ACT for Meningitis, a support group which has joined forces with the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) to highlight the devastation caused by the disease and its symptoms.

Teens and children, especially babies, are most at risk with a quarter of cases striking those less than five years of age.

As many as one in five who survive will suffer after effects such as brain damage, amputations and hearing loss.

ACT for Meningitis was established in 2011 by Siobhan and Noel Carroll, who lost their four-year-old daughter Aoibhe in 2008.

The ACT stands for Aoibhe Carroll Trust and three key messages: Ask yourself if it could be meningitis; Contact your doctor, and Trust your instincts.

Mrs Carroll said the couple felt like they had no-one to turn to for support when their daughter died suddenly.

“We set up the charity to support other families and raise awareness because knowing the signs can save a life,” Mrs Carroll, 38, from Galway, added.

Meningitis survivor Callum Hartley, six, and mother Roisin joined supporters and 248 teddy bears at Temple Street, which represented each patient affected by the disease yearly.

Mrs Hartley said her son was 10 months old when he spent four weeks in hospital fighting the illness.

“I feel blessed,” she said fighting back tears.

“He could have had a long-term difficulty, but we are lucky to have a happy little boy.

“We had his parent-teacher meeting on Monday and the teacher said he is doing great.”

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