One of the most traumatic experiences for any parent is said to be the burying of their child.
It was something Marie and Sean Devine, from Glenmornan just outside Strabane, had to go through almost five years ago when they lost their 16-year-old daughter Terri after she was suddenly struck down by meningitis.
Now the Tyrone couple backed by friends and family, have launched a campaign called ‘Time for Terri’ that aims to ensure that their grief — and that of many others — is not shared by other families in the future.
The campaign’s aim is to encourage the Government to introduce the meningitis B (Men B) vaccine, Bexsero.
December 2008 is a time that the Devine family will never |forget. Their youngest daughter Terri had just celebrated her 16th birthday on the 13th of the month — but a few weeks later she had passed away after contracting meningitis.
Mum Marie said: “Terri had been undertaking her mock exams and had returned home from school on the Wednesday saying she didn’t feel well, and that she thought she was coming down with the flu.
“There had been a bit of a flu bug going around, so I gave her some paracetamol, and she went to bed.
“By the next day, she had got slightly worse and had started to vomit, and complain of headaches.
“Based on that I contacted a pharmacist who told me to gave her ibuprofen along with the paracetamol, which did seem to give her some relief, and I thought she was coming round a bit.”
Tragically for Terri, things escalated very quickly.
Marie explained: “Terri decided in the afternoon to lie down for a while, and just after 4pm I was talking to her to see how she was, and she had said that she felt a little bit brighter. However when my husband Sean came home from work 40 minutes later, things had taken a turn for the worst.”
In the short space of time, the full effects of meningitis had taken hold of the teenager.
“When I went in to see Terri, I was shocked,” said Marie.
“She had lost consciousness but was making a moaning sound… an awful sound. I knew then that things were not great.”
Terri was rushed to hospital and it was there that the family were told that it was highly likely that Terri had contracted meningitis.
Things didn’t improve over the next few days and by Saturday morning they got the dreaded news that Terri would not make it.
The Devine family made the very brave decision to donate Terri’s organs which in turn gave life to three other people — a 10-month-old baby, a 13-year-old boy and a 31-year-old woman.
Terri was buried in St Joseph’s Chapel, Glenmornan just two days before Christmas, in the shadow of her old primary school.
It’s with this tragic background that Marie, Sean, and their daughter Karen felt compelled to ensure that nobody goes through the same suffering they endured.
In January 2013 the meningitis B vaccine Bexsero was approved, and was granted a licence in the UK. However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, who advise the Government, still has not decided whether the vaccine will form part of each child’s immunisation schedule.
The JCVI will convene this summer, and the Devine family are hoping at that stage to be in a position to apply pressure so that the vaccine can be introduced.
Terri’s sister Karen said: “This campaign is not just for Terri, but for everyone who has been affected by Men B.
“It took five years for the pneumococcal vaccine to be introduced into the immunisation schedule. Too many families cannot wait five years for this vaccine.”
Karen appealed for people to sign the family’s online petition. She said they were calling on the JCVI to make the decision in time for others to be saved.
Karen added: “The JCVI are meeting on June 12, so we are aiming to bring to a close the petition element of our campaign in May, so once again there’s that ‘time’ word. People need to sign and support before we run out of time. Time’s gone for Terri, but not for every other family.”
To sign the petition go to www.timeforterri.co.uk.
For more about the symptoms of meningitis see www.meningitis.org/symptoms.