THE thought of one of your children developing meningitis is a
nightmare for any parent.
But the principal of a local primary school
had to endure the agony of watching two of her children fighting
the illness on life support machines at the same time.
Frances Hughes, the head teacher at Rowandale
Integrated PS in Moira, has the 15th April 2005 seared into her
memory. Her third child was just six weeks old when her two
older daughters, Calla and Anna, began to show the symptoms of
what looked like a bad bug.
They both had high temperatures and were
vomiting and Frances, who lives in Newry, gave them paracetamol
to cool them down.
But when Calla the eldest, who is now seven,
developed a rash on her chest Frances' husband Karl put her
straight in the car and took her to Daisy Hill Hospital.
The doctors immediately realised it was
serious and the rash had spread across her body. They rang the
house to see if anyone else was ill. Anna, of course, was.
Both girls were sent to the Royal Victoria
Hospital and six week old Eoife was taken to Daisy Hill as a
precaution but was given the all clear.
However Calla and Anna were suffering from
septicaemia and barely conscious. They were in intensive care on
life support machines for up to five days.
Frances and Karl could not be given any
assurances and all they could do was wait and see if their two
young daughters would respond to antibiotics. After a nightmare
48 hours both girls began responding to treatment, but it was
two weeks before they were both home.
Their parents' worst fear of amputation and
loss of hearing were fortunately eased and both made a full
However Calla, who was the worst, still had
to have physiotherapy to help her to walk again.
"It was just the worst nightmare," said
Frances. "It was bad enough to have one child so sick but we had
two. The doctors were very good, but they had to tell us they
could not make any promises.
"We were just so thankful that the doctors at
Daisy Hill acted quickly."
That terrifying incident puts Frances in a
position to know just how important research and education on
this terrible illness is.
And it's why she is hoping nursery teachers
and childminders will help to organise a Toddle Waddle on behalf
of Meningitis Trust this month.
Throughout April the Trust is staging its 9th
Toddle Waddle and is appealing for toddlers to take part.
The sponsored walk is for the under 5s -
raising funds to provide ongoing support to families all over
the UK who have been affected by meningitis
Rowandale Integrated Primary School, which
has just opened, held their first Toddle Waddle last year.
Frances said: "I have organised several
Toddle Waddles for Meningitis Trust, including a treasure hunt
and a woodland adventure Toddle Waddle. Teachers and child
carers can use their imagination and make this a fun activity
Meningitis Trust urges you to
hold a Toddle Waddle
THE CHARITY Meningitis Trust was there for
the family while the children were in hospital, and when they
Frances paid tribute to the Trust and their
"I know how important the work of the
Meningitis Trust is" she said. "Holding a Toddle
Waddle is a big boost to them. They gave us
great support when we needed it during and after our hospital
Toddle Waddle Organiser, Steve Williams,
said; The tinder 5s are an 'at risk' group for the disease.
Meningitis kills more of this age group than any other
infectious disease in the UK. Although there is a serious
underlying message to this event, it is also lots of fun for the
After her family's experience Frances is
contacted now for advice.
"I get calls from friends and family when
their children are sick," she said. "They ask 'did they have
this or that'. Not every child has the same symptoms but you
have to just be aware of the symptoms of meningitis.
"If you are in ever any doubt bring them to
hospital. It is better to be safe than sorry. Know the symptoms
and Meningitis Trust have a helpline and offer good advice."
Over the last eight years, Toddle Waddle
events have raised £2million for the Meningitis Trust.
The Trust's hotline is 0845 644 0184 to receive a
registration pack and all the details that you need.