A brave toddler has survived meningitis after contracting the same deadly strain TWICE at odds of 14 million-to-one – the same as winning the lottery.
Martha Norman, who is two and a half, was struck by the same strain of bacterial meningitis twice in just a five month period.
She has pulled through despite suffering a stroke, septicaemia, surgery and a medically induced coma.
The youngster first fell ill last September when she woke up ‘floppy’ and drowsy.
Her parents Nicola and Mitchell rushed her to A&E at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Cambs. where doctors diagnosed the potentially lethal 7F bacterial strain of the disease.
It has no sign of the tell-tale rash associated with the more manageable viral form.
Martha was immediately transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where she was put into a coma to help her body fight it off but ten days later suffered a stroke.
Doctors told her parents, from Chatteris, Cambs., that she might not have survived if they had not got her to hospital so quickly.
After months of antibiotics, physiotherapy and a long hospital stay the family hoped the worst was behind them.
But in an extremely rare turn of events Martha contracted the same identical 7F strain for a second time in February.
Mum Nicola said: “I recognised the signs from the first time.
“I called 111 and they told me to wait 24 hours but I wasn’t happy with that so I took her to hospital straight away.”
“We caught it so early we didn’t give it a chance.”
Doctor’s confirmed Martha had contracted the disease a second time, put her on antibiotics immediately and kept her in hospital for a week.
Fork-lift truck driver Mitchell, 31, said: “Luckily it didn’t hit her as hard as the first time, but she now has to be on oral antibiotics for around two years to make sure the infection is gone.”
Martha, who also deals with the difficulties of being born deaf, underwent surgery in April to seal her inner right ear.
Doctors believe the meningitis took hold as a result of cochlear implant operation she had when she was a year old.
Mitchell added: “One of her ears wasn’t so successful and there was some brain fluid leakage.
“The doctors think that was the route to infection.
“Now the inner ear is sealed they are 99 per cent confident the infection won’t return.”
Martha’s speech and walking have been affected by her two brushes with the disease and the family do not yet know if she will suffer any permanent brain damage.
Mitchell said: “To look at her now you’d never know what she has been through.”
Nicola, 33, said: “We never thought it would happen to us, but it can happen to anyone.
“We are a good team and a strong family. We have been through so much since Martha was born.”
About half of all cases of meningitis, both bacterial and viral, occur in children under the age of five.
Ten per cent of bacterial meningitis cases are fatal and around 15 per cent of people who contract the strain are left with severe physical difficulties.
Nicola and Mitchell, who have three other children, have set up the Little Treasures Charity to raise money for Meningitis Now and support for children with special needs.