The dad of a child who bravely fought for his life after contracting Meningitis B is calling for widespread vaccinations to stop other families going through the same ordeal.
Del Dunworth, of Peterborough Road, Farcet, and wife Francesca have been constantly at the bedside of eight-year-old son Rico after he suddenly contracted the disease six weeks ago.
To the huge relief of his parents, Rico has pulled through after being placed in an induced coma for five days, but because his feet would not heal he had to have the entire right foot below the ankle and part of his left foot amputated.
Rico was a healthy boy until six weeks ago when his legs and back felt a bit sore after he had been playing outside. That was on the Sunday at 5pm, then at 7am the next morning he was being rushed to Peterborough City Hospital in an ambulance after being covered head to toe in a rash.
Rico was soon transferred to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester with his family facing a torturous wait to find out whether he would survive his treatment of antibiotics and blood transfusions.
Del said: “He fought for his life for three-and-a-half-days. They don’t tell you anything until they know for sure. Then we were told he would survive but his quality of life would not be what it should be for an eight-year-old.
“Until you’re actually staring there for three days watching your eight-year-old boy fight for his life, words can’t describe it. You’re just sitting by his bed waiting for news.It was three days of sheer hell for me, my wife and the family. It was a horrendous time. My wife has been by his side every night apart from one.
“Rico’s still smiling and still in high spirits. Sometimes he still thinks he can feel his toes. He’s very frustrated but remarkably brave.”
Del (42) has taken time off from being a warehouse manager at Gilchrist & Soames in Werrington to travel every day to be at his bedside in Leicester Royal Infirmary.
Francesca (30), a teaching assistant at Brightfields Pre-School in Farcet, may now not return to work as she contemplates becoming Rico’s full-time carer.
Rico’s life is no longer at risk, but twice a week he is put under general anaesthetic while his bandages are changed due to the pain, and he will need a wheelchair for a long time before he can be fitted with a prosthetic foot.
The ordeal, though, has left Del frustrated that the government will not give out Meningitis B vaccinations for children older than one after an advisory committee said offering it to older children - who are less at risk - would not be cost effective for the NHS.
This is despite a record petition to Parliament signed by over 800,000 people calling for vaccinations for children up to the age of 11.
Parliament will now debate the matter on Monday which could then lead to MPs trying to bring forward legislation.
Del said: “I feel very angry and bitter towards the government. I’ve been a taxpayer and paid national insurance for a very long time.
“Look at the suffering. If there’s a risk, let’s take it away. Parents and children should not have to go through what we’ve been through.”
Craft fair for Rico
A craft fair is being held on Saturday, May 7 to raise money for Rico and his family. The event is at the Eastrea Centre, Roman Gardens, PE7 2DF.
There will be cakes, hot drinks, tombola, bouncy castle, a large raffle, entertainment, an ice cream van and raffle stalls.
The money raised will be going to Rico for any treatment he needs or towards a nice family holiday for when he is better.
Rico’s family includes sisters Meka (5) and Tiffany (19) and brother Del Jr (22), as well as dad Del (42) and mum Francesca (30). The fair is being put on by family friends Sonia Ciriello and Samantha Catton.
Del said: “Some people have been so kind. I’ve had people donating directly to the fund and my pocket to help with fuel costs and parking.
“It’s been overwhelming. There are also charity football matches and golf days planned.”
And for big Arsenal fan Rico, there has even been another surprise.
Del added: “I’ve also had a signed photo from the Arsenal squad and a letter from manager Arsène Wenger saying “sorry to hear you are unwell’.”
Visit ‘Craft Fair for Rico’ on Facebook for more details or call Sonia on 01733 222598 or Samantha on 07834221180.