Friday 9 December 2016

‘Meningitis took the life of my 18-year-old sister when her life was just beginning’- Irish family struck with meningitis five times

Published 22/04/2016 | 14:58

Gillian's sister Lisa (far left) passed away after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 1997
Gillian's sister Lisa (far left) passed away after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 1997
Lisa passed away after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 1997

An Irish woman whose family was struck by life-threatening meningitis on five occasions has opened up about losing her sister to the infection when she was just 18.

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Gillian Dunne (40) lost her sister Lisa (18) in 1997 after she contracted meningitis and septicaemia “when her life was just beginning”.

Before Lisa’s death, Gillian’s family, from Skerries, were already familiar with the impact of meningitis as the lives of her sisters Ciara and Sarah Louise had already been threatened on several occasions.

“My experience with meningitis is that it has, for as long as I can remember, always been a stress in our family. I’m the eldest of ten children and my younger sister Ciara overcame three bouts of pneumococcal meningitis when she was a baby and then as a toddler. My youngest sister Sarah-Louise contracted septicaemia at three months but she managed to escape unscathed.

“Unfortunately it seems we were on borrowed time as my sister Lisa contracted meningococcal septicaemia and her life was taken when really it was just beginning.”

Read more: What is Meningitis and how can you spot the symptoms?

Lisa passed away after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 1997
Lisa passed away after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 1997
Gillian Dunne (left) fund raises for Meningitis Ireland

Gillian revealed that losing a sibling had a devastating impact on her family.

“It’s so unbelievably rare that a family would be struck by meningitis so many times and Lisa’s death had such an impact on us. It was devastating. You’re trying to get on with daily tasks but at the same time it’s so hard to go on without them.

Gillian recently raised more than €1400 for Meningitis Research by taking part in a skydive which she admitted was exhilarating. The mum-of-three is campaigning for the Meningitis B vaccine to be rolled out throughout Ireland as part of the national immunisation scheme in order to save the lives of Irish children.

“Obviously Meningitis Ireland is a cause close to my heart but really the message I would hope to get out there is that the MenB vaccine needs to be rolled out nationwide and not just for newborns, but also for the other groups at high risk like toddlers and teenagers.

“The reason I did the parachute jump was to raise money but also because here in Ireland where there is a high incidence of meningitis cases we are still awaiting the MenB vaccine to be rolled out as part of the national immunisation schedule.

“Ireland has the highest prevalence of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and this is something that needs to be prioritised to save lives,” she said.

April 24 marks World Meningitis Day. For more information visit www.meningitis.org

To Donate to Gillian's JustGiving Page visit: www.justgiving.com

Gillian Dunne (left) pictured before her skydive in aid of Meningitis Ireland
Gillian Dunne (left) pictured before her skydive in aid of Meningitis Ireland

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