Meningitis claims life of 30-year-old

NOT every earache will be so final as it was for Mark Flannigan but in this plea from the broken hearts of two Suffolk families, LYNN ANDREWS asks everyone to consider it as a possible warning sign of meningitis.

NOT every earache will be so final as it was for Mark Flannigan but in this plea from the broken hearts of two Suffolk families, LYNN ANDREWS asks everyone to consider it as a possible warning sign of meningitis.

MARK would have been 31 on February 11.

But he'd had an earache that worsened over a weekend and rather than make a fuss he thought Monday would be soon enough to see his doctor.

It turned to an infection and then to meningitis which claimed his life.

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Despite the tireless efforts of some of the best doctors in this country Mark was declared brain dead within hours of being rushed to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

His death may have been avoided if he and all of us had had any inkling that an untreated earache could have had such serious consequences.

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Mark was, to all intents, my son-in-law. He was engaged to my step daughter Lynette and they had been living together for almost ten years.

They were not married but both his family and ours looked on them as such and who knows but they could well have tied the knot at some point. We will never know the outcome because Mark lost his life and now Lyn feels hers too, has ended.

Her soul mate and best mate has gone and it could - maybe - have been avoided if we all had been more aware of how tragic an end could come from a pain in the ear.

Mark's parents, Josie and David, have been left devastated by the loss of their only child.

Early on Monday February 1, Mark was rushed into hospital. The paramedics, aware of the potential diagnosis, by-passed the local hospital and diverted straight to Addenbrooke's.

They gave him antibiotics en route and when he reached A&E, the staff there tried everything to stabilise his condition, as did those in intensive care. It was to no avail. Nothing they could do would stop the infection that travelled like a rocket to his brain.

I was at home by the phone getting updates from Lyn, almost on the hour. By now his symptoms had increased to be those of meningitis yet searching on the internet I had to make a positive link between earache and meningitis before any connection between the two came up.

By the time I had managed to link the two and found that other people had died, it was too late. Hindsight would have been a wonderful thing.

I'd looked on the Meningitis Trust website and saw the common symptoms that we're all taught to look out for. Nowhere did it mention earache.

I contacted the Trust asking why they, of all people, don't mention earache. They acknowledged that it is possible for some ear infections to spread to the brain and cause meningitis. And they have assured me that my concerns will be passed to the medical director and the education team who are shortly going to be reviewing their signs and symptoms.

My crusade, if you like, is to make everyone aware, now, that there could be a danger in not seeking medical help for a prolonged earache. It could lead to an infection and, as with Mark, it could develop into meningitis.

Don't put off seeing a doctor, even on a weekend or evening if you have any doubts. It is better to get it looked at and go home feeling you've wasted someone's time rather than not recover or be left with a disability.

Mark's life support machine was switched off on February 2 and his family and ours are proud of him even in death because he has helped improve the lives of several sick people by being an organ donor. You see, he was a totally healthy young man up to this point.

We also want for his death to not have been in vain by it highlighting this potential danger. Not every serious earache will be fatal but even one more death will be one more too many.

The funeral service for Mark Flannigan is being held at St Andrew's Church, Norton, on Saturday February 20 at 11am. Donations, if wished, to Meningitis UK, c/o Meredith Greengrass Funeral Service, 9, Marriotts Walk, Stowmarket, IP14 1AF.

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