‘We wanted to thank those people who saved our son’s life’

editorial image

The family of a four month old boy who contracted Strep B meningitis have urged people to be aware of the condition and to push for testing.

James Devenney, from Newtowncunningham, spent three weeks in hospital in Dublin being treated for the condition.

His family, dad Gareth and mum Ciara, have been told he has suffered brain damage as a result of the meningitis.

It is not yet known how this will affect him in the future, but Gareth said so far all the signs are positive and James is a happy and very alert baby, who is always smiling.

Ciara had been diagnosed as having Group B Strep during pregnancy and received antibiotics during labour and James did not have any symptoms.

However, 18 days later he became unwell and as they were waiting to attend a doctor’s appointment James ‘went down hill very fast’.

“He went pure grey and he started to lament and then his eyes started to roll,” Gareth said. “Ciara rushed him straight down to the doctor in Newtowncunningham. It was terrifying. The doctor had a fair idea it was meningitis and administered an antibiotic there and then and an ambulance was called.”

James was taken to Letterkenny Hospital and doctors worked on him for a number of hours.

“He started to get worse and was having seizures and a decision was made to transfer him to hospital in Dublin.”

James was taken to Temple Street by ambulance and was in ‘great form’ when Ciara and Gareth saw him in the early hours of the morning.

“Then he started to go downhill again very fast. We were told the next 48 hours were critical as his body had started to shut down.”

It took 48 hours for it to be confirmed James had Strep B meningitis and sepsis and he was put on a three week course of antibiotics.

“After day four, the antibiotic started to work on him. He is our first baby and it was such a frightening experience and to be so far away from home it was difficult.”

Gareth and Ciara were able to stay in Hugh’s House, a home away from home for the families of critically ill children, and said it was ‘completely invaluable’ for them. They were able to take turns staying with their son and had somewhere to go to get a break.

The family wanted to give something back to those who saved James’s life and gave them support at the most difficult time.

Gareth said it was also important for his family to raise awareness of Group B Strep Meningitis.

“There have been a number of people who have pushed for tests after hearing our story. We would encourage people to be aware of it and for pregnant women to ask to be tested.”

The Devenneys organised a sponsored walk on Boxing Day around Inch Wildfowl Reserve and set up a fund-raising page online for anyone who was unable to make the walk.

So far the family have raised in excess of €10,000 for Letterkenny Children’s Ward, Temple Street Children’s Hospital and Hugh’s House. To donate visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/james-boxing-day-walk