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‘Covid has made people forget about meningitis’ - Woodford Green woman speaks out after losing best friend

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 September 2020

Lorna Madhani (left) is speaking out about the dangers of meningitis after losing her best friend, Lauren Sandell (right). Picture: Lorna Madhani

Lorna Madhani (left) is speaking out about the dangers of meningitis after losing her best friend, Lauren Sandell (right). Picture: Lorna Madhani

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A Woodford Green resident is encouraging everyone to know the signs of meningitis after her best friend died from the disease in her first week at university.

Lauren thought she had 'fresher's flu' during her first term at university but she died of meningitis shortly afterwards. Picture: Lorna MadhaniLauren thought she had 'fresher's flu' during her first term at university but she died of meningitis shortly afterwards. Picture: Lorna Madhani

Lauren Sandell was 18 years old when she contracted MenW meningitis in 2016.

She had returned home from university for the weekend thinking she had “fresher’s flu” but died shortly afterwards.

Lorna Madhani, now 22, had spoken to her best friend Lauren every day for years and they were messaging just days before she died.

She said: “When my mum rang to say that Lauren had died, I just didn’t believe her. I was angry. I kept shouting at her, calling her a liar.

Lorna said she has thought of Lauren so many times during lockdown. Picture: Lorna MadhaniLorna said she has thought of Lauren so many times during lockdown. Picture: Lorna Madhani

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

Concerned that meningitis has been forgotten about during the pandemic, Lorna is now speaking publicly about her experience for the first time to try and raise awareness.

“Lauren was due to have the MenACWY vaccine, which would have saved her, but she hadn’t had it yet. Neither had I – none of our friends had.

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“It took Lauren to die for all of us to become aware of the vaccine that we should have had in the first place.”

Meningitis is spread through close contact and while numbers went down during lockdown they are expected to rise again as people socialise again, particularly moving into the winter season.

“Vaccines are the only way to protect people against many forms of meningitis, which is hard to spot and can kill in hours,” said Rob Dawson, director of communications, advocacy and support at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).

“While the country is rightly staying alert for Covid, they must also remember to think about meningitis too.

Lorna is speaking out during Meningitis Awareness Week that people should not forget about the deadly illness. Picture: Lorna MadhaniLorna is speaking out during Meningitis Awareness Week that people should not forget about the deadly illness. Picture: Lorna Madhani

“We need to make sure that meningitis, and the vaccines which protect against it, are not forgotten as cases are expected to rise over the next few months.”

Lorna is supporting MRF in encouraging people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis this Meningitis Awareness Week (September 14-20).

She said: “I thought about Lauren so much in lockdown. Covid-19 has made people forget about other illnesses, like meningitis – but they’re still here and still deadly.

“Meningitis has not gone away.”

Find out more by visiting meningitis.org/MAW2020.


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