A WIGAN woman is on a mission to educate people about meningitis after both her daughter and granddaughter nearly died from the killer disease.
And as part of her drive to raise awareness, Sharon Davies has opened her own nearly new shop from which she will donate all money, after overheads, to the Meningitis Trust.
The shop, Olivia’s Dream, was opened last week in recognition of the amazing recovery that her daughter Cheryl, 22, and granddaughter, Olivia, 13 months old, made from the devastating disease.
Sharon, 45, said: “It is every parents worst nightmare to find out your child has a disease that could kill them, and at the time that Cheryl was diagnosed, when she was 17, I knew absolutely nothing about it.”
Cheryl had been suffering with flu like symptoms for about a week and one night she suddenly started with a migraine, which Sharon thought nothing about as migraines run in the family.
But within minutes the dedicated mum-of-two realised there was something seriously wrong.
She said: “Migraines run in the family so I just took her downstairs and gave her some tablets as you do, but she gradually got worse and soon she couldn’t stand up and started slipping into a coma.
“It all happened so quickly. She was rushed into hospital and straight away doctors started treating her for meningitis even though they didn’t know for sure that was what it was.”
Shortly after being taking into hospital it was confirmed that Cheryl had Meningococcal meningitis, she was heavily sedated to keep her in a coma for three days, where she was given intensive treatment for the disease.
Sharon, whose shop is based in Garswood Street in Ashton, said: “I knew nothing about meningitis when Cheryl was diagnosed, in fact I thought they must be wrong at first because I thought only babies got it, but when it was confirmed that she had it we were so worried.
“Her dad and I spent every second at her bedside and there were so many times we thought she might die.
“It is the worst feeling a parent can ever go through.”
Luckily, the doctors caught Cheryl’s meningitis early enough to be able to treat it effectively, although Sharon says she is still suffering from the aftereffects five years down the line.
She added: “We are so lucky that she is still with us today because so many other parents lose their children or their children lose limbs.”
Just as the family were getting their lives back on track disaster struck again, and in August last year, just nine days after Sharon’s youngest daughter gave birth to Olivia, again they noticed something wasn’t right.
Olivia would momentarily stop breathing, which initially they put down to wind, which was backed up by a midwife, but despite medical reassurance Sharon could not shake her gut instinct that something was wrong.
She said: ““The doctors had to put her on oxygen because they couldn’t get her breathing on her own and like they did with Cheryl they started treating her for meningitis even though they weren’t completely sure that was what it was.”
When the results confirmed that Olivia had Meningococcal meningitis Sharon’s world fell around her.
She added: “For it to happen to one child is awful but then to have to support my own child when her new born baby was diagnosed was horrific, again I thought we were going to lose her.”
The treatment Olivia was put on seemed to work effectively but after about a week the baby suffered complications.
Fluid was building up in her brain because her body was not draining it properly and she had to be rushed to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for an emergency operation, during which a temporary drain was put into her skull.
Six weeks later she was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, which is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the ventricles of the brain, a consequence of the meningitis, and she had to have a permanent drain fitted, which she will have for life. Sharon, who lives in Newton-le-Willows, said: “Both with Cheryl and Olivia we were told by doctors that if we’d have left it just 30 minutes longer neither of them would be alive, which is terrifying especially because neither of them showed the usual symptoms of the disease.
“With the shop, which my dad and step mum, Ken and Anne Spurgeon, helped get ready, not only do I want to raise money for the Meningitis Trust but I also want to raise awareness of the disease and tell people not to wait for the rash to develop, as soon as they think something is not right with their child take them to hospital.
“I had no idea that on either occasion that it was meningitis but I just went with my gut instinct that something wasn’t right, and that is the advice I would offer to others. Go with you gut and get them checked out, it is not worth the risk of waiting.”
If you would like to volunteer at the shop please call 07930 102110.