Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Dexter's family help raise awareness of meningitis after-effects

Andy Hopkinson | 8th September 2022

An East Lancashire mum is raising awareness of the long-term after-effects of meningitis, after her son survived the illness

Raising awareness of meningitis in Lancashire after Dexter's recovery

Nicola Pepper, from Rishton, says her nine-year-old son Dexter has social, emotional and cognitive issues after battling bacterial meningitis at just three weeks old.

Nicola, 40, said her son’s diagnosis came “by chance” and that Dexter didn’t have a rash that is commonly attributed to the illness.

She said: “It’s just through gut instinct and a feeling that something was wrong that we managed to catch it really early – we were lucky.

“Doctors were concerned about his weight and just happened to give him a urine test and then later a lumbar puncture.

“Dexter never got the rash and when that rash does appear the illness could already be quite advanced.”

A frightening time

“It’s like suddenly the world pours in on you and everything becomes so stressful,” she said. “He was my first baby and everything was all so new and frightening as it was.”

After a month in hospital Dexter managed to survive his illness but Nicola had no idea about the long-term impact it would have.

She said: “As Dexter got older it became apparent that he was struggling with social, emotional and cognitive issues.

“He has problems processing big chunks of information. He struggles to understand sarcasm and life for him is very ‘black and white’.

“The older he gets the more he realises just how different he is to his peers.

“His brain hasn’t finished forming so until he is older there might be issues that form down the line that we aren’t aware of.”

Nicola and her family want to raise awareness of the long-term impact that this meningitis can have, potentially leading to an acquired brain injury.

She said “It can impact your mood, cause long term migraines and more – it can cause a massive variety of issues.

“Many don’t realise that further complications are attributed to it.”

Walking challenge

Dexter and his six-year-old sister Matilda recently embarked on a 50km walking challenge in order to raise money for Meningitis Now and also raise awareness of the illness.

They completed the challenge over the summer holiday and have raised more than £115 so far.

The charity helped the family understand more about the long-term after-effects of how meningitis can affect sufferers.

Nicola said: “We decided this year that we wanted to do something to give back and also wanted to keep kids active over the summer.

“I am proud of both of my children for completing the challenge.

“We are one of the lucky ones and Dexter survived the ordeal - but I don’t want us to be the only ones which is why we are raising awareness.”

Long-term impacts

There are several potential long-term impacts of meningitis. Babies and young children are particularly at risk of developing learning and behavioural changes as a result of meningitis; these are often short-term. However, long-term problems, such as aggression and personality changes, are often associated with acquired brain injury (ABI).

Long-term after-effects can also include:

  • Emotional changes
  • Hearing loss  
  • Sight problems
You can donate to the family’s GoFundMe here.

Republished with the kind permission of the Lancashire Telegraph. This story originally appeared in the Lancashire Telegraph; click here to read the original story.

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