New Year’s celebrations carried extra poignancy for the Wernli family this year (2012) after they came close to losing 18-year-old Jessica to meningococcal disease.
Neither Jessica nor her mother Andrea recognised the symptoms of the potentially deadly disease when she first became ill in mid-December, and they almost delayed too long in seeking medical help.
The Lesmurdie teen had been unwell for about 24 hours, but because she went out tovisit a friend, her mother thought she could not be too ill.
“When she came home she had a migraine and was vomiting,” Mrs Wernli said. “She had a few little spots on her feet, but I just didn’t think anything of it.”
Mrs Wernli said even though she had heard of meningococcal infection, she thought symptoms would include a stiff neck and she expected the rash to look different.
The next morning, December 15, Jessica complained her joints were sore and she hadmore spots on her legs. Mrs Wernli rang Health Direct and was advised to take Jessica straight to Swan District Hospital. She was put on antibiotics and transferred to Royal Perth Hospital where she spent the night in intensive care. “It was scary,” Mrs Wernli said. “You just hope everything is OK.”
Jessica had to have surgery to drain fluid from her knees but was lucky not to lose any limbs. She came home two days before Christmas but complications put her back in hospital thenext day for another week and more surgery.
But she was determined to be home again by New Year’s Eve, in time to celebrate her fatherMarkus’ 50th birthday on Sunday.
Jessica, who is studying human resources management at Curtin University, said before she became ill she had been doing long hours at two part-time jobs, working out at the gym and socialising.
She hoped her experience could serve as a warning to others.
BETHANY HIATT, The West Australian Updated January 3, 2012, Survivor Story & photos courtesy of The West Australian.