COUNTY NEWS: Amputee's meningitis fear for her children, too old for vaccination
A brave mum who lost both her lower legs when she contracted meningitis as a teenager says she's scared her young children could get the deadly infection because they're not eligible for the vaccination.
Clare Brown (formerly Forbes), 32, from Selsey is backing the national campaign to see all children given free meningitis B jabs.
The government’s policy of only giving it to new-born babies means Clare’s two daughters Alexcia, six, and Savanna, five, aren’t entitled to free protection from the killer strain.
“It makes me very angry and scared that they could get it, I’m convinced I’m a carrier,” said Clare. “Not only my kids but anyone, I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy.”
Since suddenly falling ill at the age of 17 and nearly dying several times, Clare has been living with a huge number of health problems.
She takes at least 40 pills a day, some to help with her pelopsia, a hugely disorientating condition referred to as Alice in Wonderland syndrome because it makes everything around her appear to constantly be moving. It means she can’t walk on her prosthetics unassisted or sleep lying down.
Clare also sufferers from downbeat nystagmus (flickering of her eyes), vertigo, double vision, weakness in her left side from a stroke, and some brain damage.
A petition to see all children up to 11 vaccinated for the deadly meningitis B strain is reaching a million signatures.
It was started following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, who died on Valentine’s Day, 11 days after falling ill. Her mother’s picture of her dying child in hospital covered in a rash has been shared thousands of times.
Clare, too, is bravely speaking out to try to help prevent other avoidable tragedies. But after getting meningitis as a teenager, she wants the government to go further.
“They say you should look for a rash, but I didn’t get one until I was being carted off in an ambulance,” she said.
“I was 17 when I got it and I know a man in his 60s who did as well so it can affect anyone.
“The government says it can’t afford to give injections to everyone, but if I could walk another marathon to raise money to stop people dying I would do it tomorrow.
She added: “I wish losing my legs had been it but although I get one with things I suffer more now.
“It’s being talked about in the media now but soon it won’t be and there’s still not enough information out there about meningitis.”
Just today the government rejected the growing call for the Bexsero injection to be given to all children, saying it would not be cost effective.
Although parents like Clare can pay for children over the age of two months to have the jab privately, a worldwide shortage of Bexsero means not everyone is able to get it.
Despite all her adversities, Clare became something of a celebrity when she walked the 2005 London Marathon, becoming the first female double amputee to do it.
And despite it taking her 19hrs 10mins to complete in total agony, she then walked the New York Marathon six months later.
She defied doctors who said she could never have children by giving birth to her two daughters, suffering deterioration of her health following both births.
And two weeks ago she married long-term partner Chris Brown, 35, the father to Alexcia and Savanna and one of Clare’s carers.
Her mother Karen Verboort lives with the family to help with the care of Clare and the children.
She said: “It’s absolutely infuriating that the government won’t vaccinate more people. They say £75 for the injection is too expensive, but think of the many thousands of pounds it has cost over the last 15 years to treat my daughter, it’s probably £10,000 a month.
“If David Cameron wants to discuss the effects of meningitis he should come and speak to my daughter to see the damage it can do.”
Find out more about meningitis and sign the petition here
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