Meningitis Awareness week September 14-29

A Braunton mum is urging parents of young children, teenagers and first-time university students to take up the new free meningitis vaccine.

Jodie Cross, an ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation charity, is keen for other families to avoid the trauma of their children catching the life-threatening disease.

Her daughters Lydia and Millie were stricken by meningitis as infants in 2003 and nearly died, with Lydia losing her legs.

Now aged 14 and 12, the girls, their mum and dad Tony have been at the forefront of the successful campaign calling for the introduction of a vaccine.

From this month, the world’s first comprehensive vaccination programme against meningococcal B (MenB) meningitis and septicaemia for babies has been introduced into the UK’s immunisation programme.

It follows a recent meningococcal ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccination programme for 14 to 18-year-old schoolchildren and 19 to 25-year-olds starting university.

This week (September 14-20) is Meningitis Awareness Week and the Cross family is taking the opportunity to ensureothers take up the new vaccine.

“We know how devastating these diseases can be, so we would urge all who are eligible to make sure they get the vaccines,” said Jodie.

“Millie was seven months old and contracted pneumococcal septicaemia but made a full recovery after being on a life support machine with multiple organ failure. On the same day she returned home from hospital, Lydia who was nearly three, became ill and was rushed to the same hospital where she was diagnosed with Hib meningitis and septicaemia.

“She was also placed on a life support machine with multiple organ failure, she recovered but both her legs were so badly damaged by the septicaemia that they had to be amputated below the knee.

“Some people think we were so unlucky for this to happen, but we consider ourselves very lucky that they both survived.”

Chris Head, chief executive of MRF, said although they were delighted by the new vaccines, not every form of meningitis was covered and it was vital people were aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

These include fever or vomiting, a rash, sleepiness or difficulty waking up and delirium.

For questions about meningitis, septicaemia and vaccination call MRF’s free phone helpline on 08088 003344 or go to www.meningitis.org

* In an echo of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Jodie and the girls have also launched #Icecreamchallenge on Facebook for Meningitis Awareness Week - simply scoff an ice cream as quickly as possible and nominate three others to do the same, donating to www.meningitis.org