An Aberdeen mother is supporting the forthcoming Meningitis Awareness Week to help ensure people understand the illness and can spot its symptoms.
Rebecca Duncan, 40, from Dyce, saved her son’s life after she noticed the onset of the illness and took him to accident and emergency.
Her nine-year-old son Connor contracted pneumococcal meningitis in 2006 when he was 15 months old.
Mrs Duncan, and her husband Mark, didn’t recognise the symptoms straight away and first took baby Connor to the doctor.
She said: “Connor was crying, breathless, there was stiffness of his neck, he had a sore ear and kept grabbing at his ear.
“Due to the non-specific symptoms, the GP was unable to diagnose Connor and we got told he had a virus.”
One day later Mrs Duncan, a district nurse, noticed that he was sleeping a lot and had become unresponsive.
“I was very worried – I didn’t know what was happening. Only when I took him to A&E were bloods taken and he was found to have an infection and a lumbar puncture performed. They started him on IV antibiotics and he was in hospital for a month.”
“From a mother’s perspecti
The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) estimates that there are around 3,200 cases every year in the UK. They say they are easily mistaken for milder illnesses, but unlike a dose of flu can kill within hours or may cause serious, life-long disabilities.
In many cases it is difficult to predict the extent of the effects until later. Connor was not left unscathed by the illness.
Mrs Duncan said: “He has been left with delayed speech, we noticed the speech problems fairly early on. We didn’t notice other problems until he got a bit older, age 6/7, when he began to fall further behind the other children.
“He has problems concentrating, and understanding situations. His co-ordination has been affected – he can’t ride a bike, and finds it hard to hold a pencil.”
Mrs Duncan, who has organised a private tutor to help him with his spelling and English, said: “There is lack of understanding about meningitis, the teachers don’t know much about it, so as a result the additional support from the education system is very limited.”
She added: “He is making progress, and that is ongoing. We compensate by trying to encourage him more. He goes to drama and that has really helped with his confidence, he is becoming more outgoing.”
Other activities that Connor likes to get involved with include swimming and basketball. He did canoeing over the summer, and joined the Boys’ Brigade.
Mary Millar, manager of the Scotland office of the Meningitis Research Foundation said: “Rebecca’s personal experience really brings home how devastating these diseases can be and why it’s so important to be aware of the symptoms and be prepared to act fast when loved ones, family and friends fall sick.”