Three Galway people who have experienced the devastation caused by meningitis have joined forces with Connacht rugby captain John Muldoon to highlight the importance of support following a diagnosis.
Siobhan Carroll’s four-year-old daughter, Aoibhe, died in April 2008, Macha Ní Bhrádaigh lost her 18-year-old sister Sadhbh to the condition in December 2009 while Liam Cullinane contracted meningitis in 1993 which affected his mobility and speech.
To mark World Meningitis Day which takes place on Sunday they are urging people to be aware of the consequences the infection can have on families and the support which is available.
Siobhan Carroll says the support she and her husband received from the Meningitis Trust since Aoibhe died helped them greatly.
“We don’t feel so alone and we know that there is always someone there to talk to.”
Macha Ní Bhrádaigh says losing Sadhbh to meningitis has changed her life completely.
“I feel that students out there need to be more aware of meningitis. They need to look after their health and be aware that a rash does not appear in an awful lot of cases.”
Liam Cullinane explains the initial symptoms of meningitis can manifest as “pretty bog standard” ones.
“You can be feeling a bit off. But by the time those symptoms are clearly not those of just that feeling a bit off it’s often too late...far far too late.”
With at least one case of meningitis a day in Ireland and 30 per cent of adults knowing someone who has had the disease, they say those affected would be left to face life after the diagnosis on their own if the charity did not exist.
One in 10 people who contract meningitis will die leaving behind devastated family and friends. Survivors can be left with various after-effects including brain damage, blindness, deafness, limb loss (where septicaemia has occurred ), learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
Carole Nealon, general manager of the Meningitis Trust, says a meningitis diagnosis is traumatic.
“This is not just for the individual but for the families and friends that experience this dreadful illness. On World Meningitis Day we are calling on families to turn to us to get the support they need. We are the only organisation that is solely focused on supporting those whose lives have been left devastated. World Meningitis Day highlights the need for our work.”
Meningitis is a life-threatening infection which affects the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis and its associated disease, septicaemia (blood poisoning ), can kill within hours and can affect anyone at any time. Those most at risk are children under five, teenagers, young adults and people over 55 years.
About 300 cases are reported every year in Ireland. However, meningitis experts estimate this only represents half the true picture. There is still no vaccine available to protect against meningococcal group B, the most common bacterial cause of the disease in Ireland.
The Meningitis Trust says it is vital that people recognise the telltale signs and symptoms as medical help should be sought immediately. Common symptoms are fever (cold hands and feet ), joint or muscle pain, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness and confusion.
Additional signs in babies include a dislike of being handled, pale blotchy skin, high-pitched cry, and a blank staring expression. Both adults and children may have a rash (septicaemia ) that does not disappear under pressure. Symptoms may appear in any order and some may not appear at all.
For further information or if you have been affected by meningitis and need support, or would like to make a donation to help the trust continue its work log onto www.meningitis-trust.ie or telephone its 24 hour helpline at 1800 523 196