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Parents mark anniversary of child’s meningitis death

Grieving parents who lost their young daughter to meningitis have released a series of balloons to remember her on the first anniversary of her death

Kelsey Smart

Kelsey Smart

Grieving parents who lost their young daughter to meningitis have released a series of balloons to remember her on the first anniversary of her death.

Five-year-old Kelsey Smart, of Bristol, died on February 28, 2012, after she contracted meningitis and septicaemia.

The Park Primary School, Kingswood, pupil first became ill three days before, and despite undergoing an operation at Bristol Children’s Hospital to remove fluid on Kelsey’s brain, nothing could be done to save the youngster.

Hannah, now 25, and dad Jamie, now 35, made the decision to donate Kelsey’s organs so up to six other children could be helped.

To mark the first anniversary of Kelsey’s death, they released 80 pink balloons and heart-shaped lanterns – exactly one year on – at Hannah’s mum Yvonne Ponter’s home, which is where Kelsey’s memorial garden and ashes are placed.

Hannah said: “Meningitis destroyed our lives in such a short time and we miss Kelsey every day.

“We decided that the balloon launch would be the best way to keep her name alive and in everyone’s hearts.”

Bristol-based charity Meningitis UK has supported the family since Kelsey died and are continuing their campaign to get the government to make a new vaccine against Meningitis B – one of the deadliest forms of the disease – available to all children on the NHS.

The drug, Bexsero, is the first Meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the UK and could save thousands of lives, especially among the under fives, who are most at risk from the disease.

As part of the campaign, Hannah met her MP, Chris Skidmore, to discuss the Beat it Now campaign.

Mr Skidmore has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after contact from Hannah and fellow Meningitis UK supporter Ann Harrison, of Bristol.

He said: “Every case of meningitis is a tragedy.  It’s vital that we do all we can to prevent this disease occurring and any vaccine that is available should be made full use of.

“It’s heartbreaking when lives so young can be cut short by this appalling illness.”

Mr Skidmore, who is a Health Select Committee member, also offered to host an awareness event in Westminster later this year.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who advise the Government on vaccination, will decide whether the Meningitis B vaccine should be in the schedule and what age groups should receive it.

They are due to consider the vaccine in the summer this year and will look at factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.

To support Meningitis UK’s Meningitis B: Beat it Now campaign, please visitwww.meningitisuk.org/beatitnow. You can upload a message of support to our photo wall and email your MP.

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