Chipping Sodbury mother raises awareness of meningitis in Malawi
Meningitis Research Foundation PR manager Becky Pierce-Jones hands over one of 10 life-saving ambulance bikes donated to communities in Malawi
A CHIPPING Sodbury mother has travelled to some of the poorest areas in Africa to increase awareness of a deadly disease.
Becky Pierce-Jones, who works for Thornbury-based charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), spent a week in Malawi providing information on the symptoms of meningitis, introducing a revolutionary new system for healthcare professionals and visiting the families of people affected by the virus.
Mum-of-two Becky, 39, said: "It was an amazing experience.
"There were really different levels of poverty and it makes you realise how lucky we are. Not that my kids are spoilt but compared to some of the kids in Malawi they are incredibly lucky and have far too much.
"I have also thought since I came back we shouldn’t complain about the health service. We don’t know what we have until it is gone."
PR Manager Becky, of Streamside Road, was in Malawi as part of the MRF’s Action Meningitis in Malawi project funded by the Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust.
She visited a number of health clinics where ETAP mobile phones, which detect the level of severity and required urgency of treatment in patients, have been funded by the charity.
"The phones are a traffic light system," she said. "They have an app on them so the clinician can input the symptoms and it comes up with a red, amber or green response.
"The whole concept is to reduce deaths in the under fives and since they started being used in October last year we have managed to push through 40,000 children to be seen.
"Because meningitis takes hold so quickly, being left in a queue is fatal."
One of the biggest problems for the charity is the misdiagnosis of meningitis as malaria, which happens in 25 per cent of cases. So the charity has introduced rapid diagnostic testing kits, which can tell the difference between malaria and meningitis, and so far 75 healthcare professionals have been trained to use them.
Added Becky: "People can walk to these clinics for two hours and then they have to wait in a queue and children were dying waiting to be seen.
"Now they are being seen quicker thanks to this new system. It feels good to know that we are making a difference in the community."
MRF has also funded 10 ambulance bikes, which can transport both a mother and a sick child to clinics in areas where there are no buses.
"They are for the whole village to enable them to get to a health clinic quicker," said Becky. "These bikes, which each have a stretcher, only cost £350 each.
"I am incredibly proud that the work we have done in the UK has helped people overseas.
"Through our work, including the support of local people who raise money for us, we have helped fund research and prevention methods and detection and treatment equipment for both meningitis and septicemia.
"To see that in use first hand was a fantastic opportunity and has inspired me to make as many people as possible aware of the work we are doing in Africa."
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