A CLOSE CALL - Brush with the meningococcal virus leaves its mark

By EMMA CORNFORD

WITH A dark mark on her leg and aching all over, 18-year-old South Grafton resident Krystal Whitton went to see a doctor, only to be told the doctor did not know what was wrong with her and to go home and have an aspirin.

That night, with more marks appearing and knowing there was something very wrong, Krystal went to the Grafton Base Hospital.

But after one-and-a-half hours of observation, she was once again sent home.

By Thursday morning, Krystal's condition had deteriorated and she went to a doctor once again.

It was that persistence which saved her life; she was diagnosed with a suspected case of the potentially deadly meningococcal disease and taken to Grafton Base Hospital in a critical condition.

On Thursday night she was airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital where she lay in an induced coma in the intensive care unit until Saturday.

Krystal remembers nothing of the ordeal, and was only told on Saturday what had happened.

For her parents, Don and Christine Whitton, seeing their daughter go from healthy to being kept alive by life support was hellish.

"It's been really traumatic for us until Saturday when she woke up."

"She was in the coma and they told us she could be deaf or brain-damaged but when she woke up and knew her birthday ... we knew she was going to be OK," Mrs Whitton said.

"It's just such a relief now."

It may be a relief but Mrs Whitton said she had never even imagined her daughter would catch the rare but extremely serious disease.

"It all happened so fast," she said.

"You hear about it happening in Sydney every so often but never up around here. You just don't hear of it in the local area at all."

Krystal was diagnosed with a case of meningococcal-meningitis, which is caused by a bacterial infection.

Although she is on the road to recovery, Krystal now has a drip, is on antibiotics and is likely to be in hospital for at least the next few days.

And because of the swelling of her brain, she could also have extreme mood swings for the rest of her life, something her mother laughingly says she is entitled to.

There are around 200 to 250 cases of the disease reported in the state each year, and only a handful in the Northern Rivers region, but Mrs Whitton said people needed to be aware that the disease was in the area.

"People need to look out for it. I know that younger kids around have had immunisations for it but for this age group there's been nothing."



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