Flu-hit mum urges people ‘to get jab’

13th Jan 2020

Little Esme Hayes will never be able to give her mum a loving kiss on the cheek or blow out the candles on her birthday cake.

For the youngster has the rare condition Polymicrogyria (PMG) which affects the brain, causing problems with speech and the muscles in her face.
It means she cannot perform the simple action of a peck on the cheek or scrunch her lips together to blow.
And her mum Sinead believes it is down to the fact she was struck down with swine flu when she was pregnant with Esme, nine years ago, which left her in a coma.

“If a health professional I came into contact with had offered me the flu jab, things may well have been very different,” said the 39-year-old, from Sutton Coldfield.
“Esme would have been a healthy eight-year-old who would have gone to the local school, been able to speak clearly and fling her arms around me and give me a peck on the cheek.
“However, she now has to go to a special school and uses an aid to talk. She really tries to kiss but she just can’t do it, and she’s never been able to blow out the candles on any of her birthday cakes.
“We have to help her blow them out, but she doesn’t seem realise she isn’t doing it. Esme just sticks out her tongue, like she does when she’s trying to kiss, and thinks she’s blowing them out.”

Esme tries to blow out the candles on her birthday cake.

Esme has undergone tests to find out if the PMG was as a result of genetics or other factors but they have come back blank. There’s no test to determine if it was a result of the flu, but Sinead and husband John are certain that is the case. Sinead was left fighting for her life in a coma in 2010 when she was 12 weeks pregnant. While she was sedated, her dad Paul, who had also contracted the illness, sadly died on Christmas Day. Miraculously, Sinead pulled through and gave birth to Esme the following June.

“When I left hospital after having Esme, I couldn’t sit up, or brush my teeth,” said Sinead, who is also mum to five-year-old Eloise. “At the same time I was grieving for my dad.

“My husband John was very supportive but he had to go to work. I stayed with my mum a lot.”

Sinead recalled: “Esme seemed to be fine when she was born, and it wasn’t until her nine month check that alarm bells started ringing.
“She wasn’t able to sit up on her own and she kept her right hand in a fist. After various tests were done, it was confirmed she had PMG. They told us her brain had formed differently and instead of having deep folds, she had lots of folds in her brain, affecting her facial muscles.”

She has been under the care of City Hospital’s Paediatric services over the years due to difficulties hearing, another direct result of her condition.

Sinead added: “She is determined not to let it affect her. She is such a happy child and smiles a lot. Although she struggles with her speech she wants to try her best to do everything she can.
“Her hands are not strong, but she can still swim and loves to ride her bike. It’s been hard for her and no one wants to see their child suffer or life made difficult for them.
“It’s so important that clinicians coming into contact with patients are protected against the flu and I can’t stress that enough. I would hope that every midwife, doctor and nurse – or any other health worker – who came into contact with me throughout my pregnancy journey was vaccinated. I just hope that people reading my story who are thinking about not having the jab, will reconsider, because it could save lives or change a life.”

Dr Arvind Rajasekaran, Respiratory Consultant at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “Flu infection can lead to a very severe illness as we have learned from Sinead’s story, and in some cases can lead to loss of life. There are many different types of flu and it’s important that those who are vulnerable within our society are immunised against it.

“Those who are pregnant, those aged over 65, or have certain lung or heart conditions are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu. Having the flu vaccine every year reduces the risk of such serious complications and protects the vulnerable people amongst us.”

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