DON’T let your child go to university without telling them of the risks of meningitis, say parents of disease victims.
Chester schoolfriends Helen Cadden and Richard Murphy died of meningitis within weeks of each other in their first year of university in 2001.
The 18-year-olds’ illness was not connected, but their families feel both of them were let down by university medical staff who failed to respond to their symptoms.
Helen, of Chester, died in her hall of residence room in January 2001 after lying ill alone for a whole morning. Her parents Anne and Aidan did not even know she had been ill when they arrived home from work and found the police sitting with Helen’s shocked younger brother.
Richard, of Mickle Trafford, read a prayer at Helen’s funeral and took time away from University College of London to grieve her loss, but then weeks after returning to university in February 2001 called his parents Cath and Paul saying he had never felt so ill. He told a university GP his best friend had recently died of meningitis, but was dismissed.
In the middle of the night he went to A&E where staff blunders meant he sat in the waiting room for hours before falling into a coma. Cath and Paul rushed to his bedside but he died three days later. Four inquiries and an inquest found medical negligence contributed to his death.
Anne Cadden said: “It’s very important that parents tell their children that if they are or their friend is unwell they should insist on medical help.
“Meningococcal disease is particularly difficult because it starts like any other flu-like symptoms. It is if someone gets very unwell within a short space of time that the alarm bells should ring.
“There is no vaccine yet for the strain B and most cases happen during the first university term.”
Cath Murphy, whose husband Paul died of cancer in 2006, said: “If Richard had been at home we would have packed him off to hospital immediately. But it was his first time away from home, we taught him to be respectful, he wouldn’t have talked back to a doctor. I wish now we had taught him to cause a fuss until they gave him medical help.”
Meningitis and Meningitis Septicaemia symptoms are: skin rash that does not disappear when pressed with a glass; leg pain; cold hands and feet; floppy/difficulty supporting own weight; fever, vomiting or diarrhoea; confusion and drowsiness; difficulty breathing; abdominal/joint/muscle pain; abnormal skin colour; severe headache; stiff neck; dislike of bright light; body stiffens/jerky movements. For more information, visit www.menigitisuk.org