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Back with her little one, SF councillor Naomi Bailie who battled meningitis

By Claire McNeilly

A Sinn Fein councillor who was hospitalised with meningitis has told how she is determined to make a full recovery for the sake of her family.

Naomi Bailie, an adviser to Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, fell seriously ill on December 7 and was diagnosed with the killer disease.

But the 31-year-old politician - who also battled a brain tumour, hydrocephalus, two clots and a stroke - is now back home in Ballygalget with husband Gerard and baby daughter Niadh after more than two months in hospital.

Delighted to be reunited with her little girl in time for her first birthday later this month, the brave mother-of-one admitted that she was only beginning to realise how sick she was.

"I got up that morning with a crushing headache and, as I suffer from migraines, I took a tablet and thought that would kill it," she explained.

"Gerard had gone to work, but thankfully I called him to come home. By the time he arrived I had been sick, I was crawling on the floor in pain and I did not know who he was.

"My best friend, who is a nurse in neurosurgery, called to the house and realised how ill I was."

Naomi added: "I have no memory of my journey to hospital, but have been told I was completely disorientated and would not obey paramedics, who had to lift me out of the car. I am sure it was terrifying to see."

Naomi revealed she had been warned about the risk of meningitis because of an underlying health condition, but said she wasn't prepared for the 10-week ordeal that engulfed her.

She also admitted that it has been her loved ones who have filled her in on the deadly challenges she faced while fighting for her life.

"My family was told that I had so much to cope with they should just take one day at a time, and there were times they were advised to take things one hour at a time," she said.

"After my first operation I had a type of stroke associated with surgery, I could not move my left-hand side, and the likelihood of brain damage was raised.

"The tumour was also discovered and had to be removed once I was fit enough. Then we had to wait for results, and thankfully that was benign."

Naomi, who served as inaugural chair of the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said her illness was more difficult for her nearest and dearest.

"In lots of ways, for me, it was easy. I was sick. I was in hospital and I slept," she said.

"I sat in a bed for 10 weeks and it all happened to me. I have come out of it tired and sore.

"But my heart goes out to my family who were with me the whole time. For them it was awful."

Now that she's back home, the Downpatrick councillor said she was enjoying every precious minute with her beautiful daughter.

"I love being back with Niadh," she told the Down Recorder.

"I hardly saw her, partly because of the risk of infection and also because I did not want her to see me in that state.

"I went into hospital with a nine-month-old baby and now she has extra teeth and is about to turn one.

"It's a lot to take in, especially as I am still very weak."

A former pupil of St Mary's High School, Naomi - who is also a member of the Sinn Fein enterprise and investment steering group and a regional child protection officer for the party -acknowledged that she had been very fortunate.

"I have a lot to be grateful for: the doctors on the ward were brilliant, as was my family.

"I would not be here but for them," the Ulster University politics and government graduate said.

"It has been a rough ride.

"Now it is about getting back to normal If I can do that, I will be flying."

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