Belfast Telegraph

Meningitis survivor Emma Henry bids to raise funds in memory of tragic GAA star Aaron Devlin

By Staff Reporter

A woman who almost died after contracting meningitis is raising funds in memory of a GAA player who was not as fortunate as herself.

Emma Henry plans to shave her hair off to help Meningitis Now, a charity that researches the deadly condition and raises awareness about it.

The Magherafelt woman said she had been inspired to take action by the death from the disease of Ballinderry Shamrocks player Aaron Devlin.

A former Derry senior, under-21 and minor player, Aaron played 40 minutes of a game for Ballinderry before coming off, citing tiredness.

Days later he was rushed to Antrim Area Hospital and placed on life support, but never recovered.

Hundreds of people, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, attended his funeral.

Writing on her Justgiving fundraising page, Emma told how she contracted meningitis in November 1985.

"I had been unwell the previous day and a visit to the doctor revealed nothing more than a common cold," she said.

"It was terrifying for my mum and dad when my condition deteriorated the following day and my symptoms worsened to include neck stiffness and my eyes turned back into my head."

Emma was taken to the hospital and a lumbar puncture - when fluid is taken from the lower spine using a hollow needle - confirmed she had meningitis.

"I was transferred to a specialised children's unit because initially I did not respond to treatment and my parents were told to expect the worst," she said.

Emma said she and her little friend Birt - a soft toy mouse - spent a week in hospital "and I am blessed to share with you all that I fully recovered with no disabling after effects".

The therapist, who is from the same area as Aaron, said his tragic death "struck a chord" within her.

"I decided I wanted to raise funds to celebrate Aaron's life and for the Meningitis Now charity," she said.

Emma decided to shave her long locks on November 3 to help raise funds to increase awareness of the disease and to support research.

"By contributing you will help save lives," she added.

With her at the head-shave will be her childhood toy Birt, her comfort in hospital more than 31 years ago.

Colly Devlin, Aaron's brother, last night said he felt Emma's campaign to raise money for meningitis research was "a positive thing".

"It's a nice touch for her to remember Aaron, and to try to do some good in his memory," he added.

Her fundraising campaign has an initial target of £5,000, with more than £1,500 already pledged.

  • You can support Emma's efforts at

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