Sport

Dawson admits it’s still difficult to talk about son’s meningitis scare

Former England great Matt Dawson admitted he still finds it difficult to talk about his son’s meningitis as he urged the public to look out for signs and symptoms.

The 51-year-old considers himself one of the lucky ones after son Sami made a full recovery from bacterial meningitis eight years ago at just two years old.

And the British and Irish Lion is taking the opportunity to raise awareness about the rare but potentially fatal disease through GSK’s Tackle Meningitis campaign.

Son Sami, now 10, is fighting fit thanks to his parents identifying symptoms quickly but Dawson still remembers how tough that period of his family’s life was.

He said: “You have the immediate worry and not knowing what’s around the corner.

“Any parent staring at their child in an induced coma wants to know if they are going to be okay, the medics are not in a position to say because it is that serious.

“It’s a mentally tough place to be and it’s still very difficult to talk about, difficult to see.

“We took pictures of Sami because we didn’t know if we would be able to take any more pictures again.

“Now, we’re watching him play football and it’s an incredible rollercoaster of emotions.

“We’re probably some of the lucky few, there are many cases with meningitis where things don’t go as well, and we reiterate acting promptly and equipping yourself with the knowledge and asking your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions.”

Dawson launched the Tackle Meningitis campaign, which is funded and developed by GSK, in 2016, and joined forces with double Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock to support the initiative once again.

It is estimated up to one person in every two or three who survives bacterial meningitis is left with one or more permanent problems.

And while 75 per cent of people recognised a rash as a symptom of the disease, less than half knew cold hands and feet, breathlessness and mottled skin were all signs to look out for.

Dawson said: “The immediate advice was to go to A&E, and everybody involved in that whole process was utterly remarkable, the care and attention was truly inspirational.

“I’ve always said that we wanted longevity with it, and we’ve had previous conversations around it.

“It is a devastating illness and we’re not trying to make it simple here, but time is of the essence, minutes and hours can make a significant difference.”

Recent bacterial meningitis guidelines stressed an emphasis on early diagnosis and treatment to reduce the number of deaths, disabilities and overall impact associated with meningitis.

Dawson added: “It gives us a unique opportunity to highlight and remind people that as much as they’ve seen me on a rugby field or Jonnie running around a track, we are just humans who can suffer like everybody else.

“It’s a touch more relatable to hear two sports people that they’re used to seeing be successful and untouchable are actually just as vulnerable.”

Tackle Meningitis is a campaign by GSK supported by Matt Dawson and Jonnie Peacock. For more information visit TackleMeningitis.org. Tackle Meningitis is supported by Life for a Cure, Meningitis Now, The Meningitis Research Foundation, UKHSA and NHS England, who have shared their insights and expertise from patient and public health perspectives.

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