A little girl from York who died of meningitis has inspired a Christmas card to raise money for a charity fighting the disease. Catherine Scott reports.
Clara Fox was just 10 months old when she died from deadly pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia.
Since her death in 2010 family and friend of the little girl from York have raised thousands of pounds for the charity Meningitis Now.
“Clara fought against the destruction of meningitis, but though she was brave in heart and spirit she wasn’t strong enough for the evil consuming her,” says Clara’s mum, Claire Fox, who herself had survived a life-threatening brain tumour just weeks after Clara was born.
Clara, who would have been eight on December 8, initially had a temperature and a runny nose, which her parents Claire and Stefan, thought was due to a new tooth.But when she began being sick they rushed her to the doctors, by which time she was looking vacant and flushed, but even then Clara was thought to have gastroenteritis
She was admitted to York Hospital for a check-up in case she was dehydrated and needed fluids, but Clara continued to be sick throughout the night and a blood test showed she had an infection.
Her condition continued to deteriorate and it was only when Claire asked them to do a lumber puncture that her worst fears were realised and a senior paediatrician confirmed that Clara had meningitis.
“Every step of the way I feared the worst,” says Claire. After a CT scan, Clara was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary where it was confirmed she was brain dead.
“Those words cut through my heart like a bolt of lightening.”
Her parents had the devastating decision to turn off their little girl’s ventilator and watched her die in their arms.
“Clara continued to fight in my arms until her very last hearbeat.” The little girl’s family was there including her big brother 14-year-old Alex. “I’m amazed by his courage and dignity,” says Claire who also has two younger children Gabriel and Jemima.
Claire was helped after Clara’a death by the charity Meningitis Now who not only fund research into the deadly disease, but also support families.
“I rang their helpline and got through to their founder Steve Dayman whose little boy Spencer also died from meningitis.
“Steve came to see me and he just sat and listened, he could empathise with me where nobody else could because he had been through it. He also put us in touch with other families which was difficult at first but really helped and we are now helping another family who has lost a child to meningitis.”
Now Clara’s godmother April Prenderghast has designed a Christmas card to raise more money for the charity. The idea for the Christmas card comes from April’s website Prenderland Books.
The website aims to encourage children to read and have fun with books, and features characters inspired by real children who have been important in April’s life. They include her godson Gabriel, goddaughters Clara and Jemima, and nephews, Ted and Oscar.
Through the skills of Prenderland illustrator Clara and Friends is one from a selection of cards available from Meningitis Now this year, with proceeds going towards its research, awareness and support work.
“There are eight stockings on the scene because Clara was born on December 8. There are bows on the tree because Clara always wore beautiful bows in her hair. We put bows on our Christmas tree every Christmas to make sure Clara is part of our celebrations,” says April.
“Clara had such a beautiful smile and brought a smile to the face of everyone who met her. I hope that people talk about Clara and the Christmas card to their friends and family to help us raise awareness of meningitis. As well as helping to raise funds and awareness the card is a loving tribute to a special young girl, who lives on in the hearts of her family and friends.”
Tom Nutt, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said: “Meningitis is a devastating disease and sadly there will be further families this Christmas who have to face the turmoil it leaves in its wake.
“By buying this card you will be helping us to be here for them and anyone who needs our support, not just at Christmas but throughout the year, and making a real difference to those at risk of meningitis.”
April’s Christmas Cards can be ordered from Meningitis Now at www.meningitisnow.org/support-us/featured-events/support-us-christmas/christmas-cards-2017/
To read more about Clara and her friends, have a look at the Prenderland Books website at www.prenderlandbooks.co.uk