Killarney DJ Kent Wallace lost vision in his left eye after meningococcal almost claimed his life at 14.
Killarney DJ Kent Wallace lost vision in his left eye after meningococcal almost claimed his life at 14. Marian Faa

VACCINATION FEARS: 'Don't let this happen to my kids'

WHEN a young boy dived into the pool at a swimming carnival in Boonah, he felt fine.

By the end of a single lap, he was vomiting, shivering and his blood had gone cold.

This was the first sign that Killarney's Kent Wallace had contracted a deadly infection, and now he's worried it could happen to his kids.

Mr Wallace has joined a chorus of survivors calling for an improved approach to preventing meningococcal, the disease that nearly took his life.

Despite 27 reported cases, the second highest among Australian states this year, Queensland Health has ruled out expanding the meningococcal vaccination program.

Thinking back to the frightened 14-year-old, who lost vision in his left eye as a result of meningococcal, Mr Wallace said he couldn't bear to think of his kids having to go through what he did.

Rapid on-set of symptoms

"It was terrifying," Mr Wallace said.

Once a healthy and athletic child, the deadly disease caught Mr Wallace before some of the normal warning signs like a rash or spots.

 

Kent Wallace still loves his sport and has also forged a successful path as a DJ.
Kent Wallace still loves his sport and has also forged a successful path as a DJ. Marian Faa

Within 48 hours of falling ill, Mr Wallace had a headache so bad he refused to open his eyes. "My parents shut all the blinds and asked me to open my eyes, and when I finally did, my whole eye was completely black," he said.

When Mr Wallace was rushed to hospital in Brisbane, the doctor made a difficult fifty-fifty call.

"He narrowed it down to two diseases that it could be, and he said we either go with this one and if it is not that he will lose his life," Mr Wallace said.

"He used his professional opinion and luckily it saved my life."

What is meningococcal?

According to Meningococcal Australia, meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognised and treated in time.

People most at risk are babies and children up to the age of 5 and young adults.

Although the majority of victims will recover fully, 10 per cent of those infected will die, and around 20 per cent will have permanent disabilities.

 

Now with two kids of his own, Kent Wallace is pushing for an extended vaccination program to protect more people.
Now with two kids of his own, Kent Wallace is pushing for an extended vaccination program to protect more people. Marian Faa

After multiple surgeries that built up scar tissue in his left eye, Mr Wallace is now partially blind.

He describes the sight in his left eye as similar to looking through a foggy window or mirror.

Push to vaccinate more broadly

Now 28 with two kids of his own, Mr Wallace thinks governments should do everything possible to prevent the disease, which still causes him pain every day.

"It only seems to be becoming more common now that people are catching meningococcal so I can't understand why Queensland would not proceed to do this."

 

Kent Wallace now works in Warwick and Killarney and prefers to take his mind off the pain in his left eye.
Kent Wallace now works in Warwick and Killarney and prefers to take his mind off the pain in his left eye. Marian Faa

South Australia recently announced the rollout of a new meningococcal B vaccination program for babies and children from October.

Since the meningococcal C vaccine was introduced, the most common strain of the disease in Australia is now B.

A spokeswoman from Queensland Health said the meningococcal B vaccine is not currently funded under the National Immunisation Program.

"We would welcome a nationally consistent approach to immunisation programs which provide protection to Australians against meningococcal infections," the spokeswoman said.

Meningococcal bacteria is transmitted via mucus, generally through close and prolonged contact with a person carrying the bacteria who is usually completely well.

In 2017, Queensland committed funding for a time-limited vaccination program to protect adolescents against meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains.



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