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'My little Ben was just lifeless in my arms... he wasn't responding at all'

DUBLIN mum Hilary O'Donnell feels incredibly lucky that the symptoms of deadly meningitis were spotted early in her son -- it's this that saved his life.

Ben (5), from Swords, recovered, but he still has some minor speech difficulties and hypersensitivity with his ears.

However Hilary knows that the outcome could have been much worse when Ben contracted the disease in August 2009.

As a first-time mum, Hilary said that she was terrified when Ben, then aged two, was "lifeless" in her arms.

"We had gone away for the bank holiday weekend and then it happened when everyone was back to work," Hilary said.

"The local creche in Swords, Kids Inc, rang to say that he wasn't well. I often got those calls but they called me again and said, 'We really think you need to come really quickly'."

"When I got there, he was very lethargic, he had been throwing up. So I took him immediately from the creche straight down to the GP.

"Thankfully he presented with the rash and our doctor saw this and gave him a shot of penicillin," she added. "She called an ambulance and they took him straight to Temple Street. At this stage he was lifeless in my arms -- he wasn't responding at all. The rest was just a daze."


The hospital admitted him straight away and hooked Ben up to a penicillin and antibiotic drip for seven days.

Hilary said that she and her husband Will had an agonising wait while their little boy lay desperately ill in hospital.

"They took him for a lumbar puncture to take fluid from the spine," Hilary explained.

"But whatever way he wriggled, they couldn't get enough fluid to test and identify what type of meningitis he had."

"They treated him for about seven days on a drip with an antibiotic. He slept for about two days and then when he woke up, he was like brand new. It was unbelievable. They never cease to amaze me.

"After about day three he started to move around a little bit and they could disconnect him so that he could move out of isolation and into the normal ward."

Ben is now a healthy junior infants student and deals with the slight side-effects such as ear hypersensitivity and delayed speech.

Hilary is terrified it could happen again to Ben or to his little sister 20-month-old Millie.

"It is now when I think about it afterwards and hear other stories and all the what ifs -- what if I had hung on, what if the doctor hadn't given him the injection, what if he didn't get the other symptoms," she said.

"I was talking to a father whose son died and the very, very last symptom was the rash but at that stage it was too late."

Hilary, an IT project manager, hopes the Government will prioritise funding for the vaccine.

"I know that it is such a difficult time, but I would love to think they would take priority."