With the clocks having gone back over the weekend, one Colne mum is on a mission to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
Julie Jenkins, of Chatham Street, knows only too well about the disease after her little boy Louie (3) was given the devastating diagnosis back in 2012. He underwent a five-hour operation at Leeds General Infirmary, and had his legs amputated below the knee.
Now, since cases of the deadly bacterial form of the disease peak during the Winter months, Julie is heading to different groups, schools, and events to share her story and help other families.
She says that symptoms of meningitis can often be mistaken for flu - ranging from a fever with cold hands and feet, to vomiting, to a dislike of bright light. Other symptoms include joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness, confusion and, in babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle.
The 32-year-old and mum-of-two, who has a fund for Louie called the Little Lamb Appeal, said: “What I would say to everybody is be really vigilant. If you are concerned, just get help - you can never be too cautious.
“With Louie, he got a temperature, he was really irritable and had sickness. After he started being sick for a couple of hours he went really floppy and lethargic, and that is when he was taken to hospital.”
Louie is currently waiting to have an operation on November 24th, and is attending frequent physiotherapy sessions. The aim of the operation is to help Louie, a fan of Scooby Doo and dinosaurs, to continue wearing prosthetics throughout his life.
According to the charity Meningitis Now there are some 3,200 cases of bacterial meningitis in the United Kingdom – leaving 10 per cent of sufferers dead and a third of those who survive with after-effects such as brain damage, loss of hearing and sight and, where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs and scarring.
They say disease which can kill in hours, so knowledge of the symptoms, vigilance and quick action are all vital.
Sue Davie, Meningitis Now chief executive, said: “Babies and children under five are most at risk of meningitis, with over half of all cases occurring in this age group.
“But the disease can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. Even those who consider themselves ‘fit and healthy’ may be left fighting for their life in a matter of hours.
“We urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, trust their instincts and get urgent medical help if concerned. Doing this could save yours or a loved one’s life.”
Visit www.meningitisnow.org or call the charity’s free helpline on 0808 80 10 388 for information on free support services.
Anybody wanting Julie to come and talk to their group, or attend an event, can contact her on the Little Lamb Appeal Facebook page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org