Couple back vaccine in memory of Jamie
A LONDONDERRY couple who have fought and fund-raised for a meningitis vaccine ever since their nine-month-old son Jamie died of the illness in 2004 are urging the Government to place Bexsero, the first Meningitis B vaccine licensed here, on the NHS immunisation schedule.
Emma and Darren Cowey, from Tullyally, experienced every parent’s nightmare when nine month old Jamie contracted the deadly illness in 2004.
Jamie passed away in Emma’s arms on Halloween night at the Royal Victoria Hospital less than 24 hours after the first symptoms of Meningitis and Septicemia developed.
Now they are uniting with other families and survivors of the killer illness - including Gemma Crawford, of Killaloo - to support Meningitis UK’s new Meningitis B: Beat It Now campaign.
Emma said: “We were sat down and the doctors told us that Jamie had suffered a massive heart attack.
“At about 11am doctors said he could fight no more. We told him to be so brave and kissed his tiny head – Jamie’s heart stopped at 11.10am.
“We wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else - it devastated our lives and the lives of our family and friends.
“Ever since we have been raising awareness of meningitis, but you also need real medical help in the form of a vaccine because the symptoms are difficult to distinguish from more common illnesses.
“It also works so quickly that you can run out of time. Darren and I got help for Jamie straight away and did everything we could but it did not help.
“If the vaccine received Government backing, it would give a meaning to everything we have been fighting for during the last seven years.”
Gemma, 21, fell ill during Christmas 2008 with flu-like symptoms, including a severe sore throat, which worsened when she struggled to walk. A purple rash then developed across her legs.
Her mum Valerie called an ambulance but by the time she reached hospital she was unconscious.
Gemma was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia and given antibiotics to fight the infection. She left hospital 11 days later but could hardly move the left side of her body.
At first Gemma was confined to a wheelchair and zimmer frame, but has now fully recovered, going on to pass her driving test and take part in a charity walk to raise awareness of the cruel disease.
Gemma, who is expecting her first baby in February, said: “I consider myself to be very lucky. I was in a wheelchair and using a zimmer frame for about six weeks until I got back on my feet, but I haven’t been left with any after-effects.
“Meningitis is a frightening disease because you only have a small amount to time to be treated.
“It’s also difficult to diagnose because symptoms can be like flu and a rash doesn’t always appear. This is the reason vaccines are the only way forward.
“It’s something which needs to be introduced especially for younger ones who can’t tell you how they feel. At least I was able to tell my mum how I felt and she was able to get help.
“It’s brilliant there’s a vaccine but it will only have an impact if it’s introduced into the childhood immunisation programme. The vaccine will then save so many lives.”
Bexsero is the first Meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the UK and could save thousands of lives, especially among the under fives, who are most at risk from the disease.
Meningitis B, the most common form of the disease in the UK, affects around 1,870 people each year and every week six people, many of them children, die of the disease.
It kills one in 10 and one in three suffer life-changing after-effects such as limb loss or brain damage.
To support Meningitis UK’s Meningitis B: Beat it Now campaign, please visit www.meningitisuk.org/beatitnow. You can upload a message of support to our photo wall and email your MP.
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Weather for Londonderry
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west