awareness | 

Irish mother whose child died from meningitis urges parents to ‘know the signs and act quickly’

'From six hours of being sick, Aoibhe had passed away'

Siobhan Carroll's daughter Aoibhe (4)

Siobhan Carroll's daughter Aoibhe (4)


A mother whose young child tragically died from meningitis has urged parents to "know the “signs” and to seek medical care immediately if they are concerned.

Siobhan Carroll is the Chief Executive of Act for Meningitis and she set up the organisation after the death of her four-year-old daughter Aoibhe, in 2008.

Ms Carroll was pregnant at the time, and she had to spend a night in hospital as she was feeling unwell. She spoke to Aoibhe that morning and “everything was fine”.

The mother and daughter spoke again at 9 o’clock that night, but a few hours later her husband Noel rang to say that Aoibhe “wasn’t feeling herself”.

She had vomiting and diarrhoea and her husband called the out-of-hours GP service. They asked him to check if “bright lights bother her or look at her and see if there’s any rash”. Noel said she did not have either symptom and the doctors told him to “keep an eye on her” as there was a “bug going around”.

“He brought her down the stairs and she was lying in his arms. Aoibhe slowly closed her eyes, she was slowly dying from meningitis,” Ms Carroll told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

“He rang me to say Aoibhe is really sick, the ambulance is on its way. The ambulance pulled up, Noel jumped out and said, ‘it’s not good Siobhan'.

“As we stood in A&E and saw the consultant and priest walk towards us and say, ‘we’re really sorry, your little girl is gone’. From six hours of being sick, Aoibhe had passed away from meningitis. The speed of meningitis cannot be put into words, the speed at which your life can change.”

Siobhan Carroll's daughter Aoibhe (4)

Ms Carroll added that parents need to: “Make themselves aware of signs of meningitis.”

“The symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all and to trust your own instincts. You know your own child, you know what they’re like when they’re sick and if they’re not usually like this, if you’re very concerned, get medical attention.”

Act for Meningitis is a charity which aims to raise awareness and educate society about the signs and symptoms of meningitis while offering free support services in Ireland to those affected by the disease.

It comes as the HSE is investigating four cases of meningococcal meningitis/septicaemia reported in the last week of September, including two deaths.

They include three confirmed and one possible case.

Three of the cases are reported to be caused by serogroup B. Two of people affected have died.

The cases were reported from different regions of the country and have no known links with each other. Three of the cases are young adults and one case is less than 10 years of age.

Close contacts are being identified by public health and will be provided with antibiotics to prevent infection and will also be offered vaccine if appropriate.

Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a variety of different germs, mainly bacterial and viruses. Bacterial meningitis, such as in these cases, is less common but usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics.

Bacterial meningitis may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning). The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy persons without causing illness. The spread of the bacteria is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth.

The illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases. Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.

Early symptoms can include;

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Discomfort from bright light
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • A rash may appear (pin-prick type marks which if untreated can spread to form bruises or blood blisters).

Experts advise: do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

The HSE advises that if anyone has any concerns they should contact their GP in the first instance but ensure that medical expertise is sought quickly.

The HSE said it is closely monitoring the situation.

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