Meningitis: Agony of losing 18-year-old Temi Braithwaite
• Parents Set Up Foundation To Enlighten Nigerians, Others
Oluwagbotemi Braithwaite, fondly called ‘Temi, was 18 years old when she died of meningitis, a virus parents didn’t know their meticulous ‘daughter had contracted, but for the postmortem result.
Temi, who was completing her first semester at Swansea University, in the United Kingdom, died in her room on December 11, 2014.
To create awareness on the deadly virus, which kills within 48 hours, Temi’s parents, Adesoye and Ajoke Braithwaite, have created a foundation in their daughter’s memory.
They also urge the Nigerian government to implement policies that would ensure the availability of antibiotic vaccines.
Speaking about her daughter, Mrs. Braithwaite said: “Temi was more than a daughter. She was my little mummy, who knew everything I wanted and did everything I desired. She was so good a daughter, meticulous in her dealings with everyone, her siblings, friends, family, and even strangers.
The school was already on the break but Temi did not leave school because she needed to complete and hand in her an assignment. She wanted to get a first-class. She always wanted to super-excel in whatever she did.”
When asked how the news of Temi’s demise was received, Mrs. Braithwaite, who was in their family house in London with Temi’s siblings when the incident happened, said: “It was quite a shock. We didn’t know she had meningitis. We were expecting her to return home so we could all come back to Nigeria for a Christmas celebration. That fateful evening, around 7.00 p.m., the police officer knocked and broke the news. I didn’t believe it. I was sure there was a mix-up somewhere. There was no reason for Temi to die…”
Mr. Braithwaite, who was in Nigeria while the rest of the family was in the UK, said: “My younger daughter, Funke, called me. She was screaming on the phone. I couldn’t really decipher initially what she was saying. Then, out of all the screaming, I heard the word ‘Temi is dead.” It was quite unrealistic because when you hear things like that, you don’t believe it. You think you misheard it. Your mind refuses to process the reality of the situation…”
Was there any symptom of the virus or sickness prior to the unfortunate incident?
Mrs. Braithwaite recalled: “A week before her demise, she called and said she was not feeling well. She said she had flu-like symptoms, which I assumed was not unusual for her age. I didn’t know that was a symptom of meningitis that needed emergency medical care. However, I got more upset than worried a couple of days after, when I called and she didn’t take her calls. But then, I assumed she was busy, as she would normally do away with her phones when she was busy with school assignments and would later apologise.
”It was on Thursday evening that I got a call from her flat-mates, who sent a text that I should call a number. I simply assumed as young students, they had run into troubled waters. I ignored it until the police came and said she had passed on. I never really understood. It sounded an exaggeration. The time stood still when I waited for my husband to arrive UK, as he had instructed that I should wait for him to arrive before going to see her at the morgue. I kept waiting.”
She continued: “He eventually arrived at night and we travelled the next morning to Swansea to see her. It was the hardest thing for us. We saw her, looking beautiful as though she was asleep. It was more helpful to see her like that because we saw her sleeping peacefully the same way she used to sleep. That moment was very difficult but very necessary.”
However, Temi’s parents felt the best way to avoid such incidence due to ignorance was to float a non-governmental organisation in her memory. Named; ‘Boot Out Meningitis for Good Foundation’ (BoOm4Good), it is to create awareness on the deadly virus.
The Braithwaites and other family members, last Wednesday, met for the fifth memorial of Temi followed by a breakfast talk to further enlighten Nigerians about meningitis.
They said: “We established BoOm4Good in her memory on December 12, 2015, which was also the first anniversary of her death. Actually, our first son had meningitis the year before, but he was lucky to have been taken to the hospital and got the right antibiotics on time.
Still, we didn’t take it seriously because we really didn’t know what it was despite being a victim through our son. Then, we didn’t think what he had was deadly, since he was cured. We didn’t pay attention to it until Temi’s postmortem revealed she had died of meningitis.”
They further noted that there is an outbreak of meningitis every 10 years in Nigeria. The last one happened two years ago, with 700 people (killed). We want the government to make the vaccines available. This is why we set up the BoOm4Good in Nigeria because it is quite prevalent in the North,” they said.
Mr. and Mrs. Braithwaite also said aside creating awareness, BoOm4Good was created to educate the public, identify those vulnerable to the disease and work with local health organisations towards reducing the number of deaths in Nigeria. The Foundation also intends to align with the international organization in the fight against meningitis worldwide.
“In the last four years, we have done various events to highlight, especially to the youths who are vulnerable, between the age of 18 and 24 years. We try to focus on teenagers in Nigeria because babies would get the vaccine early. We are trying to encourage parents to allow their children to take the vaccine before going into university. It is very common in the first year due to the fact that everyone is a carrier. It is at the back of everyone’s throat and the most affected are people with a low immune system…”
They further noted that a lot of people are not aware of the fact that there are four stages of meningitis dosage.
“We are all used to taking meningitis Dose C. But the dosages are ACWY and if you had one before, you can still have another one. You have to take a comprehensive one. America was trying to have ACWY at a time but was not rolled out in England then. We believe if she had taken the comprehensive one, aside from the single-dose she had, just as a routine, she would have been alive today.
”A year after she died, the UK government rolled out the four dosages. Right now, we want to enlighten teenagers and young adults and their parents on the importance of taking a comprehensive vaccine”.
They said BoOm4Good would focus on the less-privileged Nigerians, who cannot afford the vaccine.
“We work with UNICEF. We target Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and other areas, where the less- privileged persons reside. We, however, encourage those who can afford the vaccine to take one for themselves, while they donate one to the less-privileged”.
Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is caused by bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal infections.
According to research, the swelling from meningitis typically triggers symptoms such as headache with nausea or vomiting, sudden high fever, stiff neck, confusion or difficulty in concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking, sensitivity to light, no appetite or thirst, skin rash such as in meningococcal meningitis, others, such that if not urgently treated with required antibiotic vaccines, can lead to serious life-threatening complications or death.
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