Mum recognised signs of meningitis just in time
A MUM rushed her three-year-old girl to hospital – saving her life – after she remembered the story of the tragic death of another Bristol youngster.
Claire Weeks' quick thinking meant her daughter Hollie, who had fallen seriously ill while the family from Kingswood were on holiday in Devon, could get the urgent treatment she needed.
Claire, 36, had been shocked and saddened by the heartbreaking story of five-year-old Kelsey Smart, also of Kingswood, who died after being struck down by meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia.
Claire is the manager of Lees Hill Playgroup, where Kelsey was in the same year as Hollie's older sister Erica, six.
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Claire, dad Simon, 39, and the girls were on a weekend away in Woolacombe when Hollie fell ill on April 29.
Having previously downloaded a phone application listing the symptoms of meningitis, Claire and Simon rushed Hollie to North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, 11 miles away.
The youngster was diagnosed with viral meningitis and received treatment within 20 minutes.
She still suffered a stroke down her right side and lost her speech. She spent two days in the Barnstaple hospital, 12 days at Bristol Children's Hospital, and 11 days at Frenchay.
But Hollie, nicknamed "little miracle" by doctors, is now battling back to health thanks to her parents' swift actions.
She has regained most of her mobility, although still has co-ordination problems with her right hand.
Hollie struggles to concentrate for long periods and tires easily, but the family are hoping that before the end of the year she will no longer need the steroids she is on.
Claire, of the Twinings, said: "The doctors said she was an hour away from not pulling through. She's made a remarkable recovery.
"Our brave girl suffered a stroke and lost her speech, but Hollie is a little fighter and is doing well learning to talk and with physiotherapy.
"She has some weakness down her right side, but this could have been so much worse. We feel lucky to still have her here and she has returned to play school.
"I cannot thank the hospital staff enough as they helped save her life. The team at Frenchay's Barbara Russell Unit call her a 'little miracle' for how fast she is recovering and is still doing its best to make sure she gets back to health.
"Hollie knows what happened to her. She says 'I had meningitis on holiday and the doctors saved me'."
Kelsey, who attended The Park Primary School, died in Bristol Children's Hospital on February 28 this year. Her family made the brave decision to donate her organs, so that up to six other children could be helped.
Her death prompted her parents Hannah and James to launch a relentless awareness and fundraising campaign in Kelsey's memory for Kingswood-based Meningitis UK.
Claire also said the campaign launched by Kelsey's family was vital as it raised awareness about meningitis.
She said: "What happened to Kelsey and her family is heartbreaking.
"What Hannah and James are doing to remember her and spread awareness is so special.
"If it weren't for their determination, I would not have suspected meningitis and rushed Hollie to hospital.
"Our little girl could have died, but what we learned from Kelsey's story was enough to get us to rush our daughter to hospital, which saved her life.
"If my family can spread awareness of meningitis through our and Kelsey's stories, and save even one life – it will be worth it."
Kelsey's parents Hannah and James were glad to hear that their efforts helped save a life.
Hannah said: "It is incredible to hear that our efforts have helped save a life in just a short amount of time.
"We are doing all we can to remember our beautiful little girl and it is touching to hear that we have helped people in this way."
Meningitis UK chief executive Kate Rowland added: "It's amazing to hear that Hannah and James' dedication has gone on to save at least one life and may have saved two more.
"I am touched to hear that Hollie is recovering well after battling the disease and wish her and her family the best for the future.
"After their dreadful loss, the Smart family and their friends have been so dedicated to raising awareness of meningitis and funds for Meningitis UK.
"We thank them for all their efforts to help us fund vaccine research to protect future generations from the deadly disease."
For more information on Meningitis UK, to donate to The Kelsey Smart Forever Fund, or for a free symptoms information pack, call 0117 947 6320 or visit www.meningitisuk.org.