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Seamus, Six, Astounds Doctors By Beating Meningitis Every Year Of His Life

22/02/2012 11:21 | Updated 22 May 2015
Seamus Rafferty, who has beaten meningitis six timesWordlwide Features

This is the little boy who has survived the killer bug meningitis a record breaking six times.

Seamus Rafferty is only six years old, yet has beaten the brain bug each year of his life astounding experts who have never come across a child having survived the killer bug so many times.

He has been left with epilepsy and a tremor in his hands because so many blood vessels have been damaged, but he has luckily escaped any brain damage and hasn't lost his sight or hearing.

Seamus' mum, Caoimhe Rafferty, 31, who is married to Chris, 34, a lorry driver, says: "The doctors are all amazed that Seamus has beaten meningitis so many times.

"It is a miracle that he's still with us - but he's such a little fighter. He never lets it beat him. I can't believe he's still here."

Seamus was first struck with the bug in May 2006, when he was just 10 months old. He started suffering with a high temperature and had a fit whilst he was sat on his mum's knee.

Caoimhe who lives in Keady, Co Armagh, says: "I'd taken him to the doctors who said that he had a stomach bug and to take him home, which I did.

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But as I was sitting with him on my knee he suddenly started having a fit. So I rang the ambulance straight away. I was terrified about what was happening to him.

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The ambulance rushed Seamus to Craigavern Hospital, Co Armagh, and a lumbar puncture showed that he was suffering from streptococcal meningitis. The doctors pumped him full of antibiotics to try and save him.

"I couldn't believe it when it was diagnosed as meningitis. I just had to hope that he would pull through," says Caoimhe.

Seamus, six, astounds doctors by beating meningitis a record six timesWorldwide Features

After seven days in hospital, Seamus made a recovery and the couple took him home. But then just six months later he was ill again, and this time he had a rash on his body:

"I'd taken him to the doctors as he was off colour, but then after I'd driven home, I lifted him out of his car seat and I noticed the rash on his body. It had literally appeared on the drive home from the doctor's surgery.

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I knew that meningitis caused a rash, but I never thought it would be that, because he had only had it six months ago. I just thought it couldn't possibly be happening to him again.

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"I put him straight back in the car seat and rushed back to the surgery. They gave him antibiotics straight away and called an ambulance."

Seamus was rushed back into hospital where the doctors diagnosed him with meningitis - but this time it was pneumococcal meningitis - a different strain than before.

"I couldn't believe it when the doctors told me he had meningitis for a second time," says Caoimhe. "It was a different strain too, so he had just been incredibly unlucky. He was only a year old, and again he was fighting for his life."

Luckily, Seamus responded to treatment and after two weeks in hospital he was allowed home again.

Since then he has been struck down with the bug another four times, in October 2008, January 2009, October 2010 and most recently, January 2011.

Seamus, six, astounds doctors by beating meningitis a record six timesWorldwide Features

"It just strikes so quickly, but after the second time I've recognised the symptoms each time so we've rushed him straight to hospital," explains Caoimhe. "So he's been treated incredible quickly, and I believe that is what has saved his life.

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The fifth time he got it, he was jumping on the sofa at 9.30am. Half an hour later he was complaining of the bright lights and an hour later he was having convulsions. So he goes downhill with it so fast. It's just amazing that he has survived it so many times.

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Doctors have discovered a small hole in Seamus's skull, and believe that the virus may be getting into his brain each time through it. In December he underwent an operation at Belfast Children's Hospital where surgeons located the hole and blocked it.

They are hoping that this may prevent him from getting meningitis again.

"We are hoping that the operation has been a success and he won't get it again, but we just have to wait and see," says Caoimhe.

Amazingly, Seamus hasn't suffered any brain damage, hearing or sight loss, which are side effects of meningitis. But he has been left with epilepsy and a tremor in his hands due to damage in his blood vessels:

"He has been incredibly lucky each time to escape with his life, and without any damage to his brain, sight or hearing.

"It did affect his balance one time and he walked with his head tilted to the left for six months, but that gradually righted itself. He's such a happy little boy and it never lets it get him down. After his operation he asked me if he was fixed now, and we just have to hope that he doesn't get it again.

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Beating meningitis six times by the age of six is enough for anyone.

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A spokeswoman for the Meningitis Trust, which has provided Seamus with an Ipad to catch up with his education, said: "Seamus' case is unique. We are not aware of any other child in the UK who has had meningitis this many times."

What an amazing little boy. Good luck Seamus!

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