‘Parents of newborns should know all the symptoms of meningitis’

 Meningitis survivors Tegyn Carlos Miskella, Jamie In, Liam Coughlan and Alicia Munir at the meningitis awareness roadshow in Cork. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

The mother of a little boy who survived meningitis says parents of newborns should know all the warning signs.

Lisa In from Ballyphehane, Cork, and her three-year-old son, Jamie, were in University College Cork yesterday for the arrival of meningitis awareness roadshow.

Two Irish meningitis charities — Meningitis Research Foundation and Act for Meningitis — had brought 248 teddy bears to illustrate the number who get the disease each year in Ireland.

Jamie, who will celebrate his fourth birthday next month, is happily a survivor, but he suffers from a number of developmental problems caused by the disease.

Lisa, who also has a seven-year-old daughter, said her son was just 11-weeks-old when she brought him to the local GP in June 2010.

He had been “very sniffy” for a few weeks and the doctor, who saw him on an number of occasions, never suspected meningitis.

The doctor prescribed medication for a nasal infection.

Twenty-four hours later, Jamie became lethargic. It was the Saturday of the June bank holiday weekend. He was taken to the VHI clinic and the doctor there thought he was suffering from a common cold.

Jamie deteriorated on Saturday night and vomited his feed. On Sunday morning Lisa’s husband became very concerned as the child was moaning; was very lifeless and his skin was blotchy.

“I happened to rub my hand over Jamie’s head and his fontanelle was very raised. I thought this was not right at all,” said Lisa.

She brought him back to the VHI clinic and a doctor, who thought he had pneumonia, advised her to take him to Cork University Hospital.

“When we got to the hospital there was a poster about meningitis on the window of the ward that Jamie was put in — he had all the symptoms, bar the skin rash.

“I said to the nurse that I did not want to be an alarmist, but I had been looking at the poster and thought there was something not right. I happened to hear her say to another nurse when she went out that Jamie needed to be seen straight away.”

Later that night it was confirmed that Jamie had meningitis.

Lisa said that the disease had affected Jamie’s speech. He also needs special aids to help him walk because of poor muscle tone.

“Before Jamie got meningitis, all I would have associated with the disease was the skin rash, but the rash can be one of the last symptoms to occur and, at that stage, it is almost too late to save the child.”

One in 10 of the teddies on display for the awareness campaign are white – representing those children that die from meningitis.

Meningitis Research Foundation Ireland manager and deputy chief executive Diane McConnell said until there is a vaccine to cover all forms of meningitis, vigilance is vital.

* More information on symptoms of meningitis is available at www.meningitis.org.

Warning signs

Early symptoms can be mistaken for those of flu, including: fever, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, drowsiness, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion and, in some cases, a rash.


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