Caring mum speaks of challenges and rewards after son suffered meningitis

Sian Turnbull with son Jay.

Sian Turnbull with son Jay.

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A caring mum from Abbots Langley has told of the challenges she faces looking after her son who suffered meningitis as a baby.

Sian Turnbull is supporting Meningitis Now movement which recognises the hard work of those dedicating their lives to look after a loved one.

The 31-year-old has told more about her caring role during National Carers’ Week, and her devotion to son Jay.

She is supporting Meningitis Now, set up by a man who lost his son to the disease, to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and the long-term impact of the disease.

Sian cares for her son Jay who contracted meningitis at 16-months-old in 2004.

She said: “Being a carer is 24-7. It can be challenging and people don’t always realise the impact it can have on your life. But knowing I’m helping someone can be extremely rewarding.”

Statistics show that three in five people will become carers at some point in their lives.

Sian said: “Jay contracted meningitis when he was very young and I have been caring him ever since. At times it can be very challenging. He has suffered many after-effects, including visual impairment and learning difficulties.

“Looking after Jay has changed every aspect of my life, including my perspective on what is important and how much he relies on me. I don’t get time to myself or rarely with friends.

“I have dedicated my life to helping Jay and over the years I have learnt so much about his condition and how best I can help and support him. The hardest thing of all is the continuous fight to get Jay therapies and professional help that he needs.

“Jay and I have a very special bond and I wouldn’t change him for the world. When times are tough for Jay it’s extremely hard work but I’m all he has so I have to be strong. He fought to stay alive and I will fight always to give him the very best I can.”

One in three surviving meningitis in the UK suffer varying after-effects. Many will recover well, but others suffer lifelong after-effects such as brain damage, epilepsy and limb loss.

Some after-effects develop over years, but the impact changes lives forever.

Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched the UK’s meningitis movement after losing his son Spencer to the disease in 1982, said: “Carers don’t get enough recognition for their contribution to families and communities. I meet many people living with after-effects every day, and the impact is felt by everyone around them.

“We offer a range of free services to provide emotional support to carers and sufferers, including counselling, home visits and one-to-one support. As the financial impact can also be huge, we offer grants covering anything from specialist equipment to respite care.

“Carers enrich the lives of those who have suffered and I thank them for everything they do.”

In the UK there are 6.5 million unpaid carers for family members or friends.

Caring may be brief, helping someone who has recently got out of hospital, or can be a lifetime commitment.

While satisfying, strengthening relationships and building skills, without the right support its impact can be devastating, causing ill health, poverty and social isolation.

Meningitis Now is working to save lives and rebuild the futures of people affected by meningitis through research, support and awareness.

For more information, visit www.meningitisnow.org or freephone 0808 80 10 388.