Jacintha McGowan from Sligo is urging all parents to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis or septicaemia and to trust their instincts and act fast if they suspect their child may be seriously ill.
Jacintha (51) said, “My son Koray became ill in February 2015 at the age of 18. He came home from school with what seemed like a cold and a headache. I gave him Paracetamol and told him to sleep for a while. When I checked on him after an hour he had developed a temperature and didn’t want the curtains open as light hurt his eyes. At 8pm he started vomiting and his whole body was boiling except his hands and feet which were freezing.
“A friend and I rushed him to casualty and Koray could barely walk with the pains everywhere. The hospital staff said that we’d be waiting a while but we could see he was deteriorating in seconds, so I kept pleading with the nurse to get someone to look at him. Eventually they did the normal checks and said it could be a virus. But as we were waiting for the results his breathing became shallow and pinhead red spots started to appear on his arm and stomach, so I immediately thought, meningitis. I called a nurse to look and when she saw this she just ran and four doctors came back and it was mayhem from there. Luckily they started treatment with intravenous antibiotics on the assumption it was meningitis. That fast reaction saved Koray’s life. The results later came back and confirmed that he had contracted meningococcal C meningitis. The doctor said if I had brought him in 30 minutes later or had left him to sleep through the night he could be dead. Koray suffered with slight nerve damage in his eyes which repaired itself and his memory was terrible for a few months but three years on he is grand.
“If sharing our story raises awareness of this terrible illness and saves even one life I’d be grateful because we didn’t know enough about it. It was the scariest time of our lives. It shows how rapid treatment is crucial in this illness.”
Meningitis Awareness Week (17-23 September 2018) is run by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF). The charity has launched a new report showing that lives could be saved if parents are given consistent, explicit advice about recognising meningitis and septicaemia (otherwise known as sepsis) from health professionals.
Most children with meningococcal meningitis or septicaemia display only non-specific symptoms in the first 4-6 hours of illness but can be dead within 24 hours.
Meningitis Research Foundation has developed a resources hub on its website with currently available safety netting information for parents. Doctors can direct their patients to this or download and print documents to send a patient home with so that they know what to do if symptoms progress.
Check you know the symptoms at www.meningitis.org/symptoms