Mum mistakes meningococcal disease for 'just the flu'
KAREN thought her daughter Jenna was vaccinated against meningococcal and when she fell sick one night in winter, she assumed it was just the flu.
What she soon came to realise was that it wasn't the flu at all but rather something that will change their lives forever.
"She just got quite chilly and cold and developed a fever so we thought it was just a flu coming on," the mum-of-two explained.
But it wasn't the flu. Jenna couldn't keep down any paracetamol, she started having diarrhoea and when Karen changed her nappy she saw a bruise.
"I noticed a little tiny bruise on her nappy line and a couple of tiny pin pricks on her back, she had quite cold hands too, but it was the middle of winter and it was at night so I was trying to keep her under blankets to keep her warm," she explained.
As soon as the paramedics arrived they knew how bad this was
What Karen didn't realise was that these are the first signs of meningococcal but she put it down to a heat rash because she thought her daughter was vaccinated and it couldn't be it.
Karen put her back to bed and by that stage she had stopped vomiting so she thought everything was fine and in the morning Jenna woke up asking for breakfast.
"I thought I better lift up her top and check for a rash and to my shock and horror there was a purple rash on her tummy and back and I knew straight away that maybe it was meningococcal," she explained.
An ambulance arrived with lights and sirens blaring and she said: "The ambulance driver took one look at her and said 'do you know what this is?' and I said 'is it meningococcal?' and he said 'I think so.'"
By the time they started to work on Jenna her little body was shutting down and they rushed her to hospital through peak hour traffic.
"It just felt surreal like it wasn't really happening"
When they reached the hospital Karen was pushed aside while a team of doctors set to work on saving Jenna, whose condition had become very bad.
"It just felt surreal, like it wasn't really happening and just the shock that it's happening and you've been rushed aside while they work to save your daughter's life," Karen explained.
"When the doctors told me that it was that [meningococcal] I was so confused because obviously I didn't know that she was still susceptible to it having just the one vaccine not all of them," she added.
Jenna has gone through skin grafts and amputations since getting the disease
Jenna was in a coma for the first six days and then spent five months in hospital.
Doctors had to remove all of the fingers and thumb from one hand and just below the elbow on her other arm along with skin graft surgeries.
It's been a massive adjustment for their whole family as Jenna has had to go through a lot of physio, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy.
"Now it's just the normal day to day life, trying to take her to kindy and school and juggling work and things like that," Karen explained.
For them this is their new normal but Karen hopes this can be 'the good part of our life' when things are okay and before Jenna may need more surgery.
"If you're worried or want to protect your children against other strains talk to your GP"
Karen wants parents to know that the routine childhood vaccinations do not cover every strand of meningococcal and kids can still be at risk.
"If you're worried about it or want to protect your children against other strains talk to your GP," she said.
The mum-of-two wants other parents to be wary of the symptoms to look out for and to act fast if you think it could be the worst case, no matter how silly you might feel.