Meningitis alert after tragic death of talented Halifax rugby player, 19

Lewis Hilton
Lewis Hilton

Heartbroken parents Tracy and Morley Hilton have paid tribute to their “kind, loving and caring” son Lewis in order to raise awareness of meningitis after their teenage son died from the devastating disease.

Lewis, 19, died on January 28 at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, having only been admitted to Calderdale Royal Hospital two days earlier.

Lewis’ dad Morley had sent him home from working alongside him as a joiner after displaying flu-like symptoms on the Thursday of that week.

Lewis woke in the middle of the night and took some tablets for a headache, which had got worse by the morning.

Mum Tracy then phoned NHS 111. “I knew they were talking me through meningitis symptoms,” she said. “There was no rash, he was OK with light. The only thing on the list was he couldn’t put his chin to his chest. Then we took him straight to A&E and by the time we got there his headache was really bad. His leg was going numb and we had to help him walk in.

"We saw a nurse, by which time his other leg and his arms were going numb, and he couldn’t hold himself up. He was taken into a treatment area and by the time he was on the bed he couldn’t really speak.

“He was treated for viral and bacterial meningitis as they couldn’t test which it might be at that point. He was then transferred to intensive care, Huddersfield. By 11 o’clock on Friday night he couldn’t breathe on his own, so was on a ventilator. The staff at Halifax A&E and Huddersfield ICU were amazing and did absolutely everything they could for Lewis and for us, we can’t thank them enough.”

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Tracy and Morley, who live in Greetland, now want to raise awareness of meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

One in 20 cases result in death, and death rates are higher for teenagers and young adults. One in five survivors have permanent effects such as scars, amputation, hearing loss, seizures and brain damage.

“We want to raise awareness that it can be so quick and so devastating,” said Tracy. “Nobody should go through this, and if we can help one person avoid it then we want to do that.

“It mostly affects babies and toddlers, but the next highest at-risk group is teenagers, and then the over 55’s.”

“There are higher instances of meningitis among people of his age starting University because they pick up all sorts of infections as they come into contact with people from other parts of the country, which is why they were the first group to be offered the meningitis vaccination.

“Lewis did have the injection last September but it didn’t cover the strain he had, which is meningitis B. The injection he had covers A, C, W and Y.

“If we’d taken him to A&E any earlier they’d have said it was flu. So many people have had flu recently and you’d have thought that’s what it was, until he got the headache in the morning, and by then it was too late.

“They’ll never know how Lewis got it,” said Morley. “It can start from any infection, which acts as a catalyst.”

Lewis started playing rugby union for Old Rishworthians aged six, playing through every age group through to Colts and was a mainstay of their development team.

Tracy and Morley have been “absolutely overwhelmed” by the response to Lewis’ death.

“The rugby club and Lewis’ friends have been absolutely fantastic,” Tracy said. “It’s really helped knowing how much people cared about him. We had no idea how many lives he’d touched. we’re so proud of him.”