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Two brave families share their battle with meningococcal.

This Meningococcal Awareness Week, Meningococcal Australia is urging all parents to be aware and SHARE the facts with family and friends to debunk the misconceptions around meningococcal disease.

Unfortunately we still see between 200 and 250 cases of meningococcal disease every year, and the great majority of these are caused by meningococcal B.

Sadly, it is in children under five years where the incidence of meningococcal disease is highest. Of those who contract the disease, five per cent will lose their lives, and around 20 per cent will have permanent disabilities.

Summer’s Story – Kendall Axford (Summer’s Mum)

Summer
Summer

My name is Kendall Axford. Our story begins on the 12th June 2012.  The day started like a usual day….

During the day, our then 18 month old and I had played at home and in the afternoon my partner Brenton took her to the local pond to feed the ducks.

I was on evening shift that day and was at work when I received a strange picture message from Brenton.  The picture was of our daughter’s shoulder showing what looked like mozzie bites.  I asked him to keep an eye on her and that I would be home at around 11pm.

When I returned home, I went about my usual routine of having something to eat and a shower.  On my way to bed I stopped by Summer’s room to kiss her goodnight. When I touched her, she was incredibly hot. I immediately picked her up and took her temperature. I was gob smacked with the reading and was immediately very concerned. It took some gentle shaking to wake her up as she was very groggy and lethargic. I woke Brenton up in shock and panic. We attempted to give her paracetamol for the fever, but she began to throw up violently.

I wrapped her in a towel and urged Brenton to drive us immediately to the hospital, as I knew deep down that something was not right. The whole way to the hospital my heart was racing, not knowing if she could choke on her vomit or why she was so so sick.

At the hospital the doctor asked if she had any marks on her skin or signs of a rash, and that’s when it hit us. Yes, she had strange marks on her shoulder! He checked her over but was not entirely worried as he was convinced it was chicken pox. Summer was given some antibiotics and by morning she seemed well enough to go home. I was confused, tired and worried but trusted the doctor’s advice and went home.

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Once home, Summer suddenly went limp and weak in my arms and immediately her temperature spiked again. I was just about to call the hospital when the doctor phoned and my heart broke as he explained of a bug that was growing in her blood. We were transferred to a larger hospital in Cairns.

"At the hospital the doctor asked if she had any marks on her skin or signs of a rash, and that’s when it hit us."
“At the hospital the doctor asked if she had any marks on her skin or signs of a rash, and that’s when it hit us.”

After what seemed like an eternity of sleepless nights in the isolation room, countless needles and drips we were eventually given the news that our poor Summer had contracted the “W strain” of meningococcal disease. The doctors explained that the W strain was very rare in Australia, with B strain being the most common (no vaccine available) and C strain whilst once high is now very low now due to immunisation of babies at 12 months of age.

We aren’t sure of how or where our little angel caught this disease but because of early detection and fast response our daughter is a happy bubbly three year old that suffered no side effects at all.

She competes in horse sports, dances, sings and you would never guess that she was so close to death.

Raising awareness is the key to success, if people only knew exactly what this disease does and what to look for I would imagine that more lives can be saved.

Grant’s story – Kylie (Grant’s Mum)

Grant was a beautiful, healthy and happy little 21 month old boy. He was active and fun-loving and had many people around him who loved him enormously. On a Friday afternoon in May 1998 he was running a fever, vomiting and becoming unwell quite quickly. Mum, Kylie, took him to the GP where he was diagnosed with flu-like symptoms and sent home with paracetamol. He refused food but had some of his bottle before going to bed. It was not unusual for him to go to bed and sleep 10-12 hours as he was a good little sleeper.

On the Saturday morning, Grant woke at around 7am, which was about 12 hours later. He was extremely lethargic and just lying in their arms. Something was wrong and this was unlike the happy and active little boy who normally woke with a smile. Kylie called her sister and they both agreed that something was terribly wrong. He still had a fever and his body was limp and he could not get up. Upon further trying to wake him by undressing him she noticed some tiny pin-prick marks on his torso.

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"Grant’s family were there day and night and supported him through this awful disease taking over his body."
“Grant’s family were there day and night and supported him through this awful disease taking over his body.”

Her first thought was measles or mumps, but this ongoing fever and limp body was not a good sign. They then called Tresillian and explained the fever and marks. Kylie was told to put a glass on top of the mark and look through to see whether the marks disappeared. Once she replied no they proceeded to say quickly hang up and call an ambulance and rush this child to hospital. Without further questions Kylie quickly hung up and at that time her brother in law had arrived and they quickly put Grant in the car and drove the 5 minutes to the hospital as this was going to be a lot quicker, and Grant was deteriorating by the minute.

As they arrived at the emergency area of Bankstown Hospital the Triage Nurse came running to assist in getting Grant into the hospital as by this stage he was not interacting at all, and was very unwell. Grant was transferred by a special unit to The Royal Children’s Hospital so that he could get the best treatment. The next two days saw his little body overcome with the intense purple-red rash. It started slowly but took over quickly. Grant’s family were there day and night and supported him through this awful disease taking over his body. It was rapid and intense.

On the Tuesday, the doctors advised that Grant was no longer breathing by himself and that the machines had been keeping him alive for the past couple of days. The doctors advised that the majority of his brain had now been damaged and was dead due to the disease, and he was past the point of ever being able to come back from this. Kylie and Brett had to make the most difficult decision that any parent can make, and turn off the machines keeping their little boy alive.

On Tuesday, 12th May 1998 Grant Marston left his loving parents and baby brother, along with his extended family. He fought a brave fight, but meningococcal disease was relentless on him and he could not fight any longer.

Grant’s family have been working to create awareness of meningococcal disease in the hope that no other family has to suffer this loss.

This Meningococcal Awareness Week, Meningococcal Australia is urging all parents to be aware and SHARE the facts with family and friends to debunk the misconceptions around meningococcal disease:

  • Spare 15 minutes to visit meningococcal.org.au and understand the facts of meningococcal disease
  • Help spread the word – share the facts on Meningococcal Australia’s Facebook page and wear purple to show your support
  • Ask your GP if your child’s vaccinations are up to date
  • Remember the signs and symptoms and remain vigilant
  • Every hour counts, if you suspect meningococcal disease go straight to your GP or hospital
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