Mother of tot who survived meningitis in plea for all children to be given vaccine
The mother of a little girl who was left fighting for her life after contracting a deadly strain of meningitis has said it is vital that every child in Northern Ireland is vaccinated.
Heather Douglas from Dromore, Co Down, said her daughter, Poppy, is lucky to be alive after witnessing the then 20-month-old going from being "her happy little self" to fighting the potentially fatal disease within a period of eight hours.
The 36-year-old said that it was down to the quick action of her GP and the dedicated medical team at Craigavon Hospital that saved her life. Heather is one of 400,000 people supporting a petition calling for all children in the UK to be given a meningitis B vaccine following the death of a two-year-old girl.
Faye Burdett, from England, died after fighting the B strain of the infection for 11 days. Former rugby international Matt Dawson also revealed his family went though "two weeks of hell" as his two-year-old son battled meningitis C. After his experience he appealed for people to sign the petition.
Last September, it was announced the meningitis B vaccine is to be given to babies at two, four and 12 months as part of routine immunisations in Northern Ireland. But Heather said it is vital to widen the ages of children who receive the vaccine.
"We can't beat meningitis any other way," she said.
"Poppy is alive, but I'm still angry and determined that every child should be included in a vaccination programme."
It was on October 1, 2014, when little Poppy, now three years old, became gravely ill.
"She had been her usual happy little self but when she was taking her bottle she vomited. As a mum for the second time I wasn't too worried, and thought it was just an ear infection," Heather said.
"I gave her Nurofen and she seemed okay. The next morning I stripped and changed her at 8am and she had no marks on her at all."
But Heather and her husband, Chris (38) took her to their GP in Dromara where purple blotches were discovered on her chest.
"Our doctor didn't hesitate and told us to go to A&E immediately."
They arrived at Craigavon Area Hospital and were rushed into resuscitation and by 4.30pm her parents were told their daughter was fighting for her life.
"My heart was breaking - my baby was dying. But Poppy is a fighter, she had a lumbar puncture that Saturday, which was awful to watch, but she continued to improve and the doctors and nurses were delighted."
Poppy's recovery amazed doctors and by Monday they decided she could go home and return each night for treatment. Just weeks later she was well enough to get her Christmas photo taken.
Lesley Banks, community support officer for Northern Ireland at Meningitis Now, said: "Although the introduction of the Men B vaccine on the childhood immunisation scheme for young babies was a momentous achievement, saving thousands of lives, there are still so many, like Faye, left unprotected. Moving forward, we continue to campaign to see the Men B vaccine rolled out, particularly to at risk groups to ensure a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis."
A DHSSPS spokeswoman said vaccination policy is informed by the work of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the eligibility age is based on their recommendations.