Parents launch meningitis campaign

BEREAVED parents will today (Tuesday) launch an awareness drive to help people spot the symptoms of the killer disease meningitis.Taylor Westley-Smith was just nine months old when he died suddenly from the brain bug in March.

Lizzie Parry

BEREAVED parents will today (Tuesday) launch an awareness drive to help people spot the symptoms of the killer disease meningitis.

Taylor Westley-Smith was just nine months old when he died suddenly from the brain bug in March.

Since his death his parents Mark and Jennifer Smith, of Kesgrave, near Ipswich, have been fundraising tirelessly for Meningitis UK.


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Today (Tuesday), they will be joining the chief executive of the charity Steve Dayman at Asda to launch a new two-week initiative to raise awareness about the disease.

A trailer will be stationed in the supermarket car park to highlight the symptoms of the killer disease and the need to act quickly, carrying the hard-hitting warning that meningitis can kill in less than four hours.

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Mr and Mrs Smith, of Gostling Place, are urging people to make sure they know the symptoms and seek fast treatment after their son died just 15 hours after falling ill.

Mr Smith, 30, said had they been aware of the symptoms they would have rushed their baby straight to hospital.

“Taylor had a high temperature and a very faint rash on his face, which we thought might be down to chicken pox as he had come into contact with another child who had the illness a few days beforehand,” he said.

“Now we know these are classic symptoms of meningitis. And never once did a medical expert tell us that the chicken pox rash wouldn't emerge until a week after contact.

“If we'd been alerted to the fact it could be meningitis then we never would have put Taylor to bed that night, we would have sped to the hospital instead.

“Our advice now is to go to hospital if any of the symptoms develop. Don't take any risks if you suspect something serious is wrong - it's not worth it.”

Mr Smith added: “Unfortunately we didn't catch it in time. The symptoms can so easily be mistaken for other diseases and illnesses, which is why it's so important people are vigilant to the full range of symptoms - not just the rash.

“We are so committed to fundraising in Taylor's memory so other parents don't have to experience the devastation we have.”

The couple have already raised more than �5,000 in memory of their son to go towards the charity's Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign.

Free wallet-sized symptoms cards will be available to Asda shoppers and the charity is also offering the public free symptoms information packs to help raise awareness.

To order your free symptoms information pack, or to support the Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign, call 0117 373 7373 or visit www.meningitisUK.org.

Taylor died from the dangerous meningococcal septicaemia form of the disease, which leads to death in a fifth of cases.

It occurs when meningococcal bacteria enter the blood stream and multiply uncontrollably, poisoning the blood and completely overwhelming the immune system.

Taylor woke up from an afternoon nap and wasn't himself, refusing to take his bottle.

NHS Direct advised Mr and Mrs Smith to take him to the doctor, who put the tot's condition down to a gastro bug.

At 2am, the couple were woken up by Taylor's baby monitor. A few red spots had appeared on his face and neck so they called NHS Direct again, who said a doctor would be in touch within the next four hours.

The doctor called at 5am, telling the concerned parents that it couldn't be chicken pox due to the time scale.

They rushed into his bedroom to find it was too late.

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