Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Parents urged to trust their instincts to prevent meningitis deaths

Andy Hopkinson | 17th December 2019

A heartbroken mum who lost her young son to meningitis is appealing to parents to trust their instincts and for medical professionals to listen to their concerns

Georgie Hall appeals to parents to trust instincts after losing son to meningitis

Georgie Hall and her husband Bryan, from Wrentham in Suffolk, endured the agony of losing their son Ollie, 6, to meningitis in October 2017. 

Speaking at our annual Christmas concert in Gloucester Cathedral on Monday evening (16 December), Georgie said, “There are a few things I would like to tell every parent out there in the hope they never have to experience the pain that we are."

“Firstly, trust your instincts. You know your child better than anyone. The experts at the inquest into Ollie’s death all agreed that doctors should listen to the parents and parental views should weigh heavily in the medical assessment of the child."

Could have been saved

“The hardest part of the inquest was hearing that Ollie could have been saved if he had been treated sooner."

“My greatest regrets are allowing the paramedics and GPs to ignore my concerns and trusting them instead of my instincts. I’m so sorry my darling Ollie.”

The couple are also calling for parents to ensure their children are vaccinated against the disease. 

“The second thing is to have your child vaccinated. MenB has a vaccine. It’s not available to everyone so check with your GP whether your child is covered."

“If they aren’t, the MenB vaccine can be bought in many high street pharmacies.” 

Too old for vaccine

Ollie had been too old to get the MenB vaccination from the NHS when it was first introduced to the schedule in 2015, following our Beat it Now! campaign, and his parents were unaware it was available privately. 

He became ill on 23 October 2017 and as his condition worsened his concerned parents called 111, rather than wait for an appointment with their local GP. An ambulance was called, but paramedics dismissed meningitis, as did doctors at a local surgery where Ollie was taken. 

“The four medical professionals discussed Ollie among themselves almost to the point of ignoring anything I wanted to say,” Georgie said. 

They concluded that Ollie had a viral infection and he was sent home to rest. 

Felt I could not argue

“My instincts were telling me they were wrong but I felt I could not argue”, Georgie added. 

As Ollie’s condition continued to deteriorate and a rash began to develop he was taken back to the surgery and an emergency ambulance was called, only to find none were available. He was driven to hospital by his parents, but it was too late and he died the next morning. 

An inquest into his death in June this year concluded there had been a "gross failure" to provide basic medical treatment and the Suffolk coroner called for urgent improvements to prevent further deaths.

Made to feel over sensitive

Ollie’s parents had earlier told the week-long inquest that they felt they had been made to feel like "over-sensitive parents, who didn't know what we were talking about."

The family was represented at the inquest by Shoosmiths, the major law firm noted for its expertise in medical negligence cases. Shoosmiths is working with the family to campaign for medical professionals to listen more to parents’ concerns.

Michael Burrell, Senior Associate with the firm, said, “Parents know their child better than anyone, especially if that child is poorly or off colour. It is surprising, given Ollie’s symptoms and that Georgie repeatedly raised the possibility of meningitis with the medical professionals, that her concerns were seemingly disregarded so readily without the simple tests which could have reassured Georgie or led to a lifesaving diagnosis having been undertaken."

“We are hopeful that the evidence obtained as part of the coronial process will help ensure lessons are learned so that no other family has to go through what Georgie and Bryan have experienced.”

Took less than 24 hours

Georgie added, “It was shocking how fast the disease took over Ollie’s body. In less than 24 hours from showing his first sign of being ill he had died."

“Nothing can prepare you for that as a parent, no one expects to see their child die, it just doesn’t make sense. How could my happy, healthy 6-year-old boy be here one minute and gone the next?"

“Ollie was up to date with all his routine childhood vaccinations. Then, a few days later we found out that it was MenB and the vaccine for this strain wasn’t available to babies back in 2011 when Ollie was born."

“As if our hearts weren’t broken enough, we then discovered that we could have purchased the vaccine privately."

Heart was shattered

“The laboratory results confirmed that Ollie would have been protected by the vaccine. My heart was shattered.”

Our Chief Executive Dr Tom Nutt said, “Ollie’s parents Georgie and Bryan did everything right. They noticed his symptoms. They sought help. It is an absolute tragedy that they could not prevent the death of their son."

“This case highlights the need for parents to know the signs and symptoms of the disease and that, like Georgie, they should trust their instincts and seek medical help as quickly as possible."

 “We urge all parents to check too if their child has received this vaccination and if not to do so as soon as possible.”

  • Glen awarded grant from Meningitis Now Rebuilding Futures Fund

    Rebuilding the future for Glen

    A contribution from our new Rebuilding Futures Fund has helped one of our supporters hang on to his independence

  • Meningitis Now support event - Family Day Bristol Zoo

    We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

    Corporate Fundraiser Matt wrote about meeting our supporters, chatting with some of our families – and having his face painted as some sort of whiskered animal

  • Mark Jefferies Meningitis Now Remembrance Garden blog

    Hosting in the Garden

    The occasion, just like the garden itself, was a constellation of grief, optimism and every emotion in between, but what was perhaps most striking was the feeling that this was a safe and secure place

  • Chester Zoo dream night for meningitis families

    A night at the zoo

    Ten of our families in the North West who are living with the impact of meningitis were treated to a special private “dream night” at Chester Zoo