Mum urges people to get meningitis vaccine, as daughter awaits her third amputation

Meningitis survivor Danielle Sharpe with mum Kerrie at home in Pontefract. It is Meningitis Awareness Week.
Meningitis survivor Danielle Sharpe with mum Kerrie at home in Pontefract. It is Meningitis Awareness Week.

More than 4,000 children a year contract meningitis. One in ten will die and of those who survive, a third will be left with life altering after-effects as severe as deafness, brain damage to loss of limbs.

Danielle Sharpe is one such person.

Now aged 13, Danielle contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 2005 when she was just two-and half-years-old.

Since then her mum Kerrie has been campaigning for better awareness of the long term effects suffered by many survivors and for increased vaccination against the killer bug.

Kerrie, from Pontefract, said: “It started like any other toddler bug. Danielle was sick and had a temperature and was sleepy, so I left her to sleep.

“Then I hear her shout ‘Mummy!’ I rushed upstairs and she was standing her cot and there was a rash all over her face.

“I knew then exactly what it was and called 999. Although it was distressing it made me realise what was wrong with her.

“The rash doesn’t always come out. I was grateful that the rash was there as it made me take immediate action.

“A first responder paramedic was here in minutes, he did the tumbler test and said he was taking her straight to Pontefract General A&E. They saved her life there.”

Danielle was pumped full of antibiotics but Kerrie and her then husband and mum and dad were told that the next 48 would be crucial and they could lose Danielle.

“I just didn’t believe it,” said Kerrie. “At the time I was really calm. I just knew that she would pull through.”

Danielle spent ten days in intensive care. It was during this time that Kerrie saw her little girl’s limbs start to turn black from septicaemia.

She said: “It was a waiting game to see how much damage the septicaemia had done to her body.

“The day they amputated her right foot, all her toes on the left foot, right index finger and the tip of the little finger on her right hand was the most emotionally destroying day in our lives.

“I will rage against what this disease did to her for the rest of my life but we still have our girl, and despite her having to undergo further surgery this year we must be eternally grateful. Some families are not so lucky.”

Danielle has had to learn to use a prosthetic foot but she still has to have another operation as soon as the bone in her stump on her right leg has grown.

A huge One Direction fan, Danielle has asked her surgeon to wait to do the operation until she sees her idols in concert at Sheffield Arena next month.

Kerrie said: “We can’t change the tickets as it is the last concert they do before splitting up.

“This will be her third amputation op. She has been through so much and to see her smile again would be wonderful.”

Kerrie is urging people to take up new free meningitis vaccines for babies, teenagers and first time university students during Meningitis Awareness Week (14 -20 September).

Meningitis Research Foundation member Kerrie joined the #WheresOurVaccine campaign in March to press for adoption of the new MenB vaccine.

She believes Danielle could have been spared her pain if the vaccine was available when she was a baby.

“I do believe if this had been available for Danielle she would never have got the disease,” said Kerrie.

“I know how devastating these diseases can be, so I would urge all who are eligible to make sure they get the vaccines.”

The new vaccines join others against meningococcal C, Hib and pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia in the UK immunisation programme.

But despite the UK being world leaders in vaccine protection against meningitis, the charity’s Chief Executive Chris Head sounded a note of caution.

“We are delighted with the introduction of these new vaccines which we hope will further reduce the number of cases in the UK.

“However, there are still some forms of the disease which are not covered by these vaccines so it is vital that people are still aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.”