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Family's mission in memory of toddler

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:38 02 July 2010

Georgia Keeling

Georgia Keeling

Peter Walsh

The grieving parents of a toddler who died at just two-years-old have today embarked on a fundraising mission in her memory.

The grieving parents of a toddler who died at just two-years-old have today embarked on a fundraising mission in her memory.

Georgia Keeling, from West Earlham, died last August from a form of an infection called Streptococcus A which, in rare cases, can lead to meningitis.

Now, to help raise awareness of the deadly disease and raise money for vaccine research, her parents Paul Sewell and Tasha Keeling have lined-up a series of events for Meningitis UK.

The first is a sponsored head-shave at the end of the month, followed by a five-a-side football tournament on April 12 at Norwich's Open Academy.

Mr Sewell, 22, who now lives in Mile Cross with his family, said taking part in the fundraising campaign would not only help raise vital funds for the charity - helping other families to beat the killer disease - but it would also enable Georgia's memory to live on.

He said: “It's really helped to be doing something proactive in Georgia's memory. We want to raise awareness and encourage parents to trust their instincts if they sense their child's really poorly.

“We're just trying to raise as much awareness as we can to get the message out there that this is a really serious disease and there are simple signs that can end up saving lives if you spot them quick enough.

“There's still a lot of people who wait for the symptoms to appear and as we've recently found out in some cases you don't get any symptoms whatsoever. Waiting for the symptoms can be too late.”

Mr Sewell said he was extremely grateful for the support given to his family by Meningitis UK since Georgia's death and hoped to help the charity raise £40,000 which would help pay for a researcher for a year to try and find out more about the deadly disease.

He said the pain of losing Georgia had made the family determined to try and prevent the same thing happening to anybody else.

He added: “I wouldn't want anyone to go through what we did but unfortunately there's a lot that do.”

Mr Sewell's dad, Douglas, 41, will be sacrificing his shoulder-length locks as part of the sponsored head-shave later this month which is hoped will raise up to £1,000.

Other fundraising initiatives being considered by the family include a sponsored speed dating night and Norwich to Paris bike ride later on in the year.

All the money raised will go towards Meningitis UK's Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign. It aims to raise £7million to fund vital research into developing a vaccine against all forms of meningitis and its associated diseases.

Steve Dayman, who founded Meningitis UK after his son Spencer died from the disease, said: “Everyone's efforts in memory of Georgia are really remarkable. To organise these events is no mean feat.

“Group A Streptococcus infections can lead to meningitis. The devastation experienced by her family reinforces the importance of finding a vaccine sooner rather than later.

“Every penny they raise will go towards this single focus and our ultimate goal to spare people the heartache of losing a loved one to meningitis.”

As previously reported, Georgia fell ill on the morning on Tuesday, August 4 and her family called several medical professionals, including her GP, who said there were no appointments available and that it sounded like she had swine flu.

Paramedics then arrived in a car and said there was no need for an ambulance saying she had swine flu and did not need to go to hospital. However, her condition worsened and an hour later her family called 999 again.

An emergency care practitioner then arrived in a car and said there was no need for an ambulance, but her condition worsened and an hour later her family called 999 again. She was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but her heart had stopped and efforts to resuscitate her failed.

Georgia's family launched a formal complaint against the East of England Ambulance Service following the toddler's death and ambulance bosses conducted an internal investigation.

Mr Sewell is looking for a local social club or pub to act as a venue for the head-shave at the end of March. Anyone who can help with a venue should call him on 07833 604596.

To make a donation in Georgia's memory, contact Meningitis UK on 0117 373 73 73 or send a cheque to Meningitis UK, 25 Cleeve Wood Road, Bristol, BS16 2SF.

Have you battled meningitis and survived? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

What is meningitis? Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the lining surrounding the brain. It can be caused by many different organisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

How many types of meningitis are there? There are two types in the UK. Viral (caused by a virus) and Bacterial (caused by bacteria)

What are the symptoms? Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia may not always be easy to spot at first because the symptoms can be similar to those of flu. They may develop over one or two days but sometimes develop in a matter of hours.

The incubation period for bacterial meningitis is between two and 10 days and for viral meningitis it can be up to three weeks.

Symptoms do not appear in any particular order and some may not appear at all. It is important to remember that other symptoms may occur.

In adults and older children look out for: High temperature, fever, vomiting, sometimes diarrhoea, severe headache, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, joint/muscle pains, fits, confusion.

In babies and infants look out for High temperature, fever, vomiting or refusing feeds, high-pitched moaning, whimpering cry, blank staring expression, pale blotchy complexion, baby maybe floppy and dislike being handled, neck retraction and arching of back, lethargic, the soft spot on babies head may be tense or bulging.

For more information log onto www.meningitisUK.org or call 0117 373 73 73. Other websites include the Meningitis Research Foundation which can be found at www.meningitis.org or by calling 080 n8800 3344, or the Meningitis Trust which can be found at www.meningitis-trust.org or by calling 0800 028 1828.

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