Ceduna girls wins brave battle against meningococcal disease

SURVIVOR: Five-year-old Neveah Kelly with her mother, Andrea Richards.

SURVIVOR: Five-year-old Neveah Kelly with her mother, Andrea Richards.

ANDREA Richards planned December 23 to be the start of the family holiday but was thankful it wasn’t.

Instead of relaxing, she and daughter Neveah Kelly travelled to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, where the five-year-old was diagnosed with a rare strain of the meningococcal disease.

A day earlier she woke up with sore legs and developed a fever and by night she could not stand without feeling pain.

Ms Richards rushed her daughter to hospital, concerned these were not normal flu symptoms. 

When they returned the following day for another appointment the doctor said to get to Adelaide, where the diagnosis was the W-strain of the meningococcal disease.

“I had been researching the disease lately to be aware of the symptoms,” she said.

“I knew something was not right and if we didn’t put holiday plans on hold to get a second opinion she may not be alive today.”

Neveah spent only a few days in hospital and is now home.

Her mother was left stunned at her progress.

“I’m amazed at how well she has come.

“It was a miracle she walked out of the hospital – she didn’t want to be wheeled out, and the doctors were surprised at how well she responded.”

Ms Richards could not pinpoint exactly where her daughter picked up the disease, which is caused by bacteria and transmitted through mucus.

“She could have picked it up from somebody coming in and out of Ceduna, somebody could have coughed or sneezed.

“It was bad luck that she got it, her immune system was not strong enough to fight it.

“It was scary that my daughter had it and went through it and it was a big scare over Christmas.”

FIGHT: Andrea Richards with daughters Tyarna Richards and Neveah Kelly. Ms Richards believes the W-strain vaccination should be free. Picture: Luca Cetta

FIGHT: Andrea Richards with daughters Tyarna Richards and Neveah Kelly. Ms Richards believes the W-strain vaccination should be free. Picture: Luca Cetta

Neveah was only the fifth person to be diagnosed with the W-strain in South Australia in 2016.

All other cases were the B-strain.

A vaccination is available for the W-strain of the disease, but unlike the C-strain neither the W-strain or the B-strain are available for free on the National Immunisation Program, with parents paying up to $500.

Ms Richards said that should change and there also needed to be greater awareness surrounding the disease.

“It is classed as rare, but I think it should be free,” she said.

“Meningococcal doesn’t have enough awareness around it, even in medical facilities you don’t see any posters about it.

“Knowing what to look for is so important as this can be fatal if left for too long.”

While still experiencing pain and continuing to recuperate, Neveah is bouncing around once again.

“It’s a miracle how she came out of everything,” her grateful mother said.

“She will have x-rays in a few weeks as a follow up and is able to walk normally, but she cannot run too much at this stage.”