Almondsbury mother opens up about the lifelong after-effects of meningitis
A MOTHER from Almondsbury whose child was left profoundly deaf after contracting meningitis as a baby has joined a national campaign to eradicate the devastating infection.
Julie Harvey's daughter Sophie, now 17, was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis in 1996 when she was just five months old.
After spending a week in intensive care she was eventually moved to a regular ward. Although she survived, she was left profoundly deaf and was fitted with a cochlear implant at two years and nine months.
To mark Meningitis Awareness Week, which starts next Monday, and in support of Thornbury-based Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), Julie, 45, has taken the step to share her family's struggle with the disease's lifelong after-effects and highlight its tell-tale symptoms.
"She is a happy person, but need loads of reassurance when doing new things," said the Bristol City College support worker of her daughter.
"She has just left Castle School having taken her GCSEs and hopes to go to Ashley Down College to do a Level 1 childcare course.
"She can get very unsure of things very quickly and can panic and I believe this is a result of the meningitis.”
She added: “Meningitis and septicaemia are diseases you never expect to happen, but when they strike they can be devastating, not just for the person who falls sick, but for all their loved ones, family and friends.
"That’s why I’m supporting Meningitis Awareness Week. Everyone needs to know about these diseases.”
Meningitis Research Foundation estimates that meningitis and septicaemia affect ten people in the UK and Ireland every day.
The deadly diseases strike 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.
Children under five and students are most at risk but the diseases can affect any age. Only certain strains of the infection can be prevented through vaccination.
A new vaccine for Meningococcal B infection is currently under consideration in the UK but may not be introduced because of the cost of producing and distributing it.
During Meningitis Awareness Week, the charity is hoping to persuade government to approve the life-saving jab.
MRF chief executive Chris Head said: "Vaccines have almost eliminated many types of meningitis but meningitis and septicaemia still present a very real threat to our children.”
To find out more about the symptoms visit www.meningitis.org
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