'Matthew went from being fine to fighting for his life'
Published 27 Sep 2012 14:30 0 Comments
INVERKEITHING tot Matthew Lessells gave his mum the fright of her life when he went from happy-go-lucky to floppy and blue-lipped in her arms within six hours.
Gemma Baxter and Thomas Lessells rushed their son to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy and then faced an agonising 48-hour wait while doctors ran tests on him to find out the cause of his collapse.
When a diagnosis of meningitis came back, mum Gemma (29) was stunned because she thought Matthew, - then 13-months-old - had already been immunised against the disease.
But the strain Matthew contracted - known as meningcoccal septicaemia, or meningitis B - has no known vaccine even though it accounts for the majority of meningitis cases in the UK.
Matthew, now three, was one of 200 people a year in Scotland who contracted the disease when he came down with it in July 2010.
Gemma, of Fraser Avenue, said, "It was a terrible shock. He was fine at 3pm, a happy-go-lucky little boy, at 4pm he had a bit of a temperature and at 6pm he started being sick.
"I remember saying, 'This isn't right, it's not just a tummy bug', and my partner Thomas phoned NHS 24. He was getting worse and we had to take him to hospital."
The experience turned Gemma into an advocate for meningitis awareness campaigns because she knows that had she not taken Matthew to the hospital things could have turned out differently.
For part of Meningitis Awareness Week, which ran from 17th to 23rd September, she helped to raise funds for research into a meningitis B vaccine and is encouraging parents to know the symptoms and trust their instincts if they suspect that their child might be affected.
Matthew still faces some after-effects from the illness - his speech is often delayed and he gets tired easily - and his parents don't know if he will ever fully recover.
"I try not to think about it too much but we were incredibly lucky," she said. "The mortality rate for meningitis is 10 per cent, so if we hadn't kept an eye on him and left him then there was every chance that he wouldn't have still been with us in the morning."
When Gemma first received the meningitis diagnosis she tried to research the illness as much as she could online and came across the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).
She dialled the charity's helpline and received a lot of information and support from staff there, something she has never forgotten.
She said, "If you know the symptoms then you could potentially save a life. If you think it's cold and flu symptoms but it's not like any other they've had before, get it checked out.
"It's scary how quickly Matthew went from being fine to fighting for his life."
Early symptoms of the disease include fever, sickness and being irritable and can come on in a matter of hours.
The MRF say that meningitis and septicaemia affect around 3600 people in the UK, killing one in 10 and leaving a quarter of survivors with after-effects ranging from deafness and brain damage to loss of limbs.
Mary Millar, Scotland manager at the MRF, said, "We must remember that vaccines do not prevent all strains of meningitis and septicaemia yet, so it's vitally important that the community in Fife remain aware of the symptoms."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 27 Sep 12