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Ashford girl's 'chicken pox' was deadly meningitis

Gemma Turner and her daughter Mikayla, two
Gemma Turner and her daughter Mikayla, two

by Thom Morris

A toddler from Kent almost died after a Tesco pharmacist dismissed her meningitis as chicken pox and advised her mother not to go to the doctor.

Gemma Turner's two-year-old daughter Mikayla ended up in intensive care less than two hours after getting the opinion.

The 28-year-old from Kingsnorth, near Ashford, had sought help from the NHS Direct helpline the day before. It told her the symptoms sounded like chicken pox and the spots should scab over within 24 hours.

The following day most of the spots had vanished but unable to get to the doctor as it was a Sunday, Gemma turned to a pharmacist for advice.

The mother-of-three said: "I took some photos to the pharmacist at Tesco in Park Farm. I showed him and asked for his opinion but he disregarded my worries and made me feel like a stupid paranoid mum.

"He was just really abrupt and brushed me off and then laughed at me.

"I started crying; I was really worried about her. He sold me some Piriton and told me to keep up with the Calpol and rubbing in camomile lotion but not to take her to the doctors because they won't want her there with chicken pox."

Mikayla when in intensive care
Mikayla when in intensive care

Following the visit to the pharmacist, Gemma pushed the spots that remained and this time they failed to disappear. Immediately fearing the worst, Gemma hurriedly rushed her daughter to the William Harvey Hospital.

She continued: "When I got her to the hospital she was a dead weight. She wasn't waking up and I was walking around saying 'someone help me'. It's all a bit of a blur now but they realised she had meningococcal septicaemia and then she stopped breathing.

"They'd called Guy's hospital and she was transferred there. The nurses said if I hadn't got her there when I did it would have been a different story.

"The doctors and nurses at both hospitals were absolutely wonderful and I can't thank them enough for saving my baby's life. They were just amazing."

Mikayla made a full recovery after five days in intensive care and did not lose any limbs, which can sometimes be the case with septicaemia. She has been left with a bald patch on the back of her head and has to visit the hospital to have further tests to ensure her hearing and sight has not been affected.

Mum Gemma hopes that through her story she can alert other parents to trust their instincts and be made aware that meningitis symptoms are not always clear-cut.

She added: "If I can raise awareness and something positive can come out of our story then it's worth it."

A Tesco spokesperson said: "Meningitis is every parent's worst nightmare and we can appreciate the distress the mother felt after her daughter Mikayla was diagnosed with the serious condition in hospital. We are pleased that Mikayla is now recovering.

"However, our pharmacist did not see Mikayla in person and was only shown a small picture of the rash. As with the NHS Direct helpline, he advised that he suspected that this was chicken pox and gave advice about seeing a doctor if these symptoms persist at the time.

"We are currently in contact with Mikayla's mother andwe are investigating this matter."

Mikayla when in intensive care
Mikayla when in intensive care

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