The heartbreak of losing little Leo

For Donacloney mum Lana Wells, March 24, 2010 started just like any other day, but by the early hours of the following morning her little son Leo had lost a battle for his life against meningitis.

Lana has spoken about the heartbreak of losing the happy, healthy toddler as she urges more people to join the fight against the disease.

She has encouraged local people to sign up for the Meningitis Research Foundation’s ‘Walk The Lough’ event on Saturday, April 5.

Leo was just two years and five months old when he lost his brief battle with meningococcal septicaemia.

Underscoring the speed with which meningitis strikes, Lana said: “We lost Leo in just 27 hours.

“We’d been to a mum and toddler’s group that day and a while later he developed a sore tummy.

“I brought him to the doctor who said it was tonsillitis and a tummy bug.

“At home we got him settled for bed, but during the night he woke at three o’clock thirsty and wanting water.

“The fact he woke was a miracle, because it was then that I noticed the rash on his body. If he hadn’t woken we wouldn’t have discovered it until next morning.

“I dialled 999 and Leo was rushed straight away to Craigavon Area Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed - this was at about 9.30am.

“From there he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital where we were told that Leo was a very sick little boy.

“That day Leo was put into a drug induced coma, and we could see how hard he was fighting just to keep breathing. At around midnight that night a nurse commented that Leo was ‘a real fighter’ but at 3am there was a knock at the door of the parent visitor’s room and we were asked to come. He died at 5am on my knee.”

Lana reiterates the MRF’s message to trust your instincts and get medical help immediately if you are worried your child may be ill.

“I would say to any parent that as soon as you see a rash, get help straight away. I did the tumbler test on Leo, but really I didn’t need to because I knew exactly what it was.

“There are several symptoms you are warned to look out for, but other than his sore tummy and tonsillitis Leo only had the rash, so don’t wait for other symptoms to appear. Even if it is only a rash - get help immediately.”

Over the past three and a half years, Lana along with her husband Karl have raised over £40,000 for meningitis charities through a number of events they have organised.

“We held a coffee morning with Jo-Anne Dobson, we run ‘Leo’s footie and fun day’ annually at Lurgan Rugby Club and we’ve held Leo quiz nights,” said Lana.

“Recently the West Down Wheeler’s Cycling Club also organised a 65 mile charity run in which around 90 cyclists participated including my husband Karl, and this alone raised over £900. Some of our friends have also done fundraisers.”

Urging people to sign up for the four mile walk, Lana said: “Meningitis is one of those things a little bit like the lottery - we go through life thinking ‘it will never happen to me’. We all think meningitis is something that only happens to other people - but this time we turned out to be the other people. “So for a little bit of sponsor money and a morning of craic it’s worth it to help raise funds. All of the money raised is vital for MRF to continue their work into research, awareness and support for those affected by meningitis and septicaemia”.

Meningitis Research Foundation estimate around 3,200 people get bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK and Ireland each year. Sadly about one in ten people who contract meningitis and septicaemia will die.

The ‘Walk The Lough’ event will take place at the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, Craigavon. There is a £5 registration fee and participants are asked to aim to raise a minimum of £45 in sponsorship. For a registration pack please contact the Belfast office on 028 9032 1283 or email

Your help could save a life.