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3yo Jasmine was up-to-date with her vaccinations. She still fell ill with meningococcal.

KnowMeningococcal
Thanks to our brand partner, KnowMeningococcal

Sarah Parkyn and her family had a rough flu season. They’d all contracted a nasty string of Influenza B, but had managed. As far as they were concerned, they’d made it through. The worse had past.

Until Sarah’s three-year-old daughter, Jasmine, woke up one morning in pain.

She was wailing. As the rest of the family prepared for their day, Jasmine just lay in bed crying. She was in extreme discomfort.

Thankfully, she was also old enough to articulate how she felt.

As her mother tried to dress her, Jasmine wept. The feeling of Sarah’s fingers and the clothing fabric on her skin was near-unbearable.

Sarah presumed – as most of us would – that Jasmine’s poor health was related to the nightmare Influenza B strain the family had fought; that it would pass, eventually. But Sarah took her to the local GP, just in case.

It was a move that would end up saving Jasmine’s little life. Because even though she was completely up-to-date with her vaccinations, Jasmine didn’t have influenza. She had meningococcal – a disease that, if untreated, can kill a toddler in as little as 24 hours.

Listen: Sarah Parkyn’s tells the awful tale of her daughter Jasmine’s diagnosis on This Glorious Mess, Mamamia’s podcast for imperfect parents. POST CONTINUES BELOW.

The GP observed Jasmine for around 20 minutes, took her temperature, and shone a torch inside her ears. He then took a urine sample.

“Because she was wearing a onesie, you couldn’t really see anything,” Sarah tells Mamamia. “She didn’t want to stand on her legs – it was too painful for her to stand up.”

“When I took her back in after going to the toilet, [the GP] noticed one tiny little spot on her chest.”

To Sarah, the spot seemed harmless. It was tiny, and looked like a dot under her skin. Jasmine loved roughhousing with her sister; she was a young child; she’d probably just been scratched or fallen over.

“It literally looked like a tiny little blood blister,” Sarah says. “Meningococcal hadn’t entered my head at all.”

That was at 9am.

On the GP’s recommendation, Sarah then took Jasmine to hospital, where at 1:30pm, she had a seizure due to her extremely high temperature. “That’s when the rash really came out, and that’s when [the doctors] told me what they suspected she had.” Jasmine spent the next five weeks in hospital, recovering.

Image source: Getty.
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Sarah goes on, "She's still got lots of problems, the poor little thing. She's suffering from chronic fatigue now as well, so she can't even go to school now because she just can't last."

For Sarah - as is the case with many mums of vaccinated children - meningococcal wasn't even on the radar when her child fell ill. Mostly because she was up to date with all her mandatory vaccinations. "Meningococcal didn't even enter my mind... I didn't really hear about it unless it was vaccination time and that was the vaccination they were having."

"I had in my head, 'she's immunised... she'll be okay because her immunisations are up to date'." The doctor pulled Sarah aside: "Well actually, there are other strains your kids aren't immunised against."

They're words no parent would ever want to hear. And we can only imagine how hard it must have been for Sarah to hear them.

But Sarah Parkyn, the incredible woman that she is, wants to use the horrific experience she's endured with Jasmine to shout the word to other parents out there:

Mandatory vaccinations don't cover every strain of meningococcal.

"That's the first time I found out there are other strains," she tells Mamamia.

"I want people to know that their children aren't fully immunised under the National Immunisation Program, and that there are other strains."

Most importantly, we need to stress one thing: This does not mean we shouldn't be vaccinating our children against meningococcal. We should.

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Sarah's story is simply intended to raise the fact that the vaccination does not mean our children are completely in the clear.

"Mandatory vaccinations don't cover every strain of meningococcal." Image source: Getty.

Any parent reading this will be thinking the same thing: How do I make sure this doesn't happen to my child, and how do I know what to look for?

The symptoms of Meningococcal, unfortunately, can often be mistaken for a common cold or virus. The kinds of things we need to be looking out for are...

High temperatures; vomiting; difficulty walking; extreme tiredness; pale grey or blotchy skin; bulging fontanella (the part on a baby's head where the skull hasn't closed yet).

The meningococcal rash begins as simple spots or blisters (as in Sarah's story) before morphing into red pin-pricks that can spread rapidly into purple blotches.

Sarah hopes her story can help at least one family out there identify meningococcal in it's earliest phases.

You can head to knowmeningococcal.com.au. or speak to your local GP to find out more.

You can listen to this week's full episode of This Glorious Mess below. 

Have you had an experience with meningococcal? Has your child ever contracted it? Please, share your experience in the comments below. 

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