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'The disease came too hard and fast for Jamie'

Case study 1

By Joanne Sweeney

Eleven years ago, Emma and Darren Cowey from Tullyally, Co Londonderry, lost their first-born son Jamie to Meningitis B when he was just nine months old. The couple now have two other children Jack (9) and Aimee (5). Mrs Cowey tells of how the illness developed suddenly and turned into a killer disease.

"We are absolutely delighted today that at long last the vaccine is being brought in as we have spent the last 11 years raising money and fighting to get the vaccine developed. I know it's too late for Jamie but it will protect other little babies and that's what matters now.

"Every second counts when it comes to meningitis and you only learn that when you go through it. Jamie was our only child then. We were a normal, everyday family and Jamie (right) had just started to walk. He was as happy as anything, a lovely wee boy.

"He took sick at Halloween around 2pm. We didn't know any different then, we just thought he was coming down with a wee bug.

"We took him to the out-of-hours doctor and were prescribed Calpol but when we got home, he became really sick and couldn't keep his bottle down and he didn't want to be moved.

"We didn't know then what was in front of him and what was in front of us.

"He went downhill so quickly once we took him to the hospital around 8pm. Meningitis is the worst disease for a child. It was absolutely horrendous. It all came too hard, and too fast for him. He just couldn't fight it. Even with all the help that the doctors and nurses were giving him, it was too devastating. He was only tiny and couldn't fight it.

"Things worsened around 10pm and later Jamie was transferred to the Royal around 2am. He wasn't even expected to make the journey but they didn't tell us that.

"We were told just to go and give him a wee kiss goodbye and we followed behind as there were so many doctors and nurses that had to go with him.

"He had a massive heart attack before he arrived but survived.

"We said that he knew we weren't there so he waited for us to get up. Jamie hung on all night but his heart kept failing. We didn't want him to go and just kept saying 'help him, help him'.

"But it was just too bad and he died at 11.10am, it was just from one morning to the next. We had heard about meningitis but we really didn't know what could happen to children. We have tried to raise awareness ever since to protect another wee child in Jamie's name."

JOANNE SWEENEY

Belfast Telegraph

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