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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Maryport tot Lillie-Mai Jackson fronts new meningitis campaign

Just over a year ago a 14-week-old Maryport baby contracted meningitis – changing her life and that of her family forever.

Now Belinda Little and Rupert Jackson, the parents of Lillie-Mai, are allowing their little girl to be used as the focal point for a campaign designed to ensure that others do not suffer the horrors they have faced.

Lillie-Mai’s picture has been used on a poster to highlight a meningitis awareness campaign being launched with the support of the Meningitis Research Foundation, charity worker Stuart McDougall and the Times & Star.

The poster displays a check list of the earliest symptoms of meningitis.

Campaigners will be at Dunmail Park, Workington, tomorrow to pack bags to raise money for the Meningitis Foundation and a fund to buy artificial legs for Lillie-Mai, who lost both legs and an arm to the disease.

Posters will be distributed to doctors’ surgeries, play groups and other locations around West Cumbria.

Rupert, of Hillside, this week recalled every parent’s worst nightmare as he explained the importance for people to recognise the symptoms of meningitis.

He said: “We thought Lillie-Mai simply had a cold. By the time we saw the rash that everyone talks about with meningitis it was too late.

“She was already on her way to losing both her legs, an arm and nearly her life.”

Belinda said they had been treating Lillie-Mai for a cold and at first she responded to medicine to reduce a temperature but later became quite poorly.

But when they noticed a rash 24 hours after the cold symptoms appeared, they immediately knew what it was and dialled 999.

Ambulance officers gave Lillie-Mai penicillin to stop the virus spreading to her brain.

On several occasions medical experts advised the family to say goodbye to their baby because she was not expected to survive.

But the couple hung on to hope as their daughter held onto life.

Even when her legs and arm were amputated, they refused to let go.

Now, more than a year on, Lillie-Mai is a happy little girl who sits up, gets herself around the floor and is starting to speak.

Her parents know what is before her, however. She will need more operations and, most importantly, she will need the kind of artificial legs not available on the NHS.

Lillie-Mai’s legs were amputated above the knee. If she is ever to walk properly she will need artificial legs that bend at the knees. They cost £25,000 a pair and will need to be replaced regularly while she grows.

It is a huge burden for a small family – and that is another reason they want to be involved with this campaign.

Belinda said: “Maryport people have been so generous. Not just Maryport but people from all over. We’ve even had cheques through the post from the United States.”

Mr Jackson thanked those who had helped to fund posters and banners for the campaign, including Dobie’s Charitable Trust, Iggesund Paper Board and the Ambulance Service.

A trust has been set up for Lillie-Mai which is administered and overseen by lawyers.

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