The family of a brave little girl have told how she has fought for her life after being diagnosed with meningitis – twice in just five months.
Martha Norman was just minutes from death when she first contracted the killer bug shortly before her second birthday.
She was put into a medically-induced coma to help her body fight the infection, but when she was woken up after ten days she suffered a stroke and the Chatteris family feared the worst.
After a long and agonising hospital stay, followed by months of antibiotics and physiotherapy to nurse Martha back to health, her family hoped she had finally seen the back of the illness.
But, in an extremely rare occurrence, the youngster contracted a second strain of meningitis in February.
Dad Mitchell said: “Luckily it didn’t hit her as hard as the first time, but she now has to be on oral antibiotics for around two years to make sure the infection is gone.”
Martha, who was born profoundly deaf, has also had to undergo surgery to seal one of her inner ears in April as doctors believe the meningitis took hold as a result of complications with a cochlear implant operation she had when she was one-year-old.
“One of her ears wasn’t so successful and there was some brain fluid leakage,” said Mitchell. “The doctors think that was the route to infection.
“Now the inner ear is sealed they are 99 per cent confident the infection won’t return.”
The nightmare began for Mitchell and his wife Nicola when Martha woke one morning and seemed “floppy” and lethargic.
“We had been to the zoo the day before and she was fine, but she woke up the next morning and something wasn’t right,” said Mitchell.
She was drowsy and vomiting, but as it was bacterial meningitis there was no sign of the tell-tale rash you get with viral meningitis.
Luckily mum Nicola took her straight to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, where doctors carried out a lumber puncture in her spine. She was diagnosed with meningitis and immediately transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where she was put into the coma.
Mitchell said: “The doctors said Nicola’s quick reactions saved her life.”
The family won’t know if there will be any permanent damage to Martha’s brain for some time, but they are pleased with her recovery.
“To look at her now, you’d never know what she has been through,” said Mitchell.
Now the family, which also includes Martha’s older brothers and sisters Callum, 9, and Katy Norman, 10, and Zak Stephens, 13, has launched a new charity to raise awareness of meningitis and funds for the Meningitis Now charity.
Nicola said the idea for the Little Treasures Charity came after she handed out leaflets to schools on how to spot meningitis in babies and children.
She said: “Having been through this, it’s obviously something that it very close to our hearts.
“Meningitis is becoming more and more prevalent, so we wanted to get the message out there.”