Credit: Family photo via Funeral Times

Belfast family issue meningitis warning after sudden death of 22-year-old

The family of a young father from West Belfast have appealed to people not to “take anything for granted” as they issued a heartbreaking warning to others after the sudden death.

Odhran McKenna, aged just 22, died suddenly from meningitis and sepsis. He passed away in his sleep at his home in Lenadoon in West Belfast.

The healthy young man, a father to 18-month-old son Caodhan, had complained of having a headache on 7 January. He went to bed believing he had “contracted a virus” that had been doing the rounds, according to The Irish News. However, he passed away in his sleep in the early hours of the following day.

A post-mortem carried out revealed he had contracted meningitis and sepsis. Mr McKenna lived with his grandparents, Paul and Angela McKenna. His grandfather Paul spoke to The Irish News about the heartbreaking death of his grandson.

Paul (65) told the paper that the illness was “very rapid”.

“For me, it was terrible,” he said. “We were up checking on him. He was up and down a couple of times to get water and we made him dinner, but he didn’t feel up to eating it.

“Later that night, we all went to bed and I went to check on him again and he had passed away in his sleep”.

He described Odhran as “very happy” and someone who “had friends everywhere”.

Paying tribute to his beloved grandson, he said: “Everybody who met him had a good word to say about him”.

“He was always at the bikes. He went racing all over the place. He was a genius for working with cars. He just had a natural talent for putting things together,” he said of his grandson, who worked for Autoclean.

“Everybody who has come into the house has said he was a gentleman. He was a well-mannered child. He was always working at something. He had a great work ethic”.

He also described his grandson as a loving father, who was dedicated to his son:

“He was a really good father. All of his money went for the child. He was dedicated to the child,” he said.

Mr McKenna said the family will miss his “lovely, big smile” – as he warned others not to “take anything for granted” and to visit the doctors if concerned about symptoms.

“I have had plenty of death in my family and my wider family, but this is the most devastating one,” he said. “He lived with us and we loved him. He never brought trouble to the door. He was his granny’s pride and joy”.

Urging people to be vigilant of symptoms of meningitis and to get medical help “right away” if concerned. “You can’t take anything for granted,” he told the paper.

Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the protective membranes which surround the brain and spinal cord, that requires treatment with antibiotics. It can be extremely serious if not treated quickly.  It is most common in babies, young children, teenagers, and young adults – and can be extremely serious if not treated quickly.

The infection can result in life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves. In most cases, it can be treated early with antibiotics.

The warning to families comes just weeks after the death of a 16-year-old girl from the infection. The youngster, aged just 16, died in University Hospital Limerick from bacterial meningitis after she endured a wait of up to 16 hours to receive antibiotics. By the time she got the antibiotics, it was sadly too late. Her death has sparked a national conversation around waiting times and overcrowding at UHL, with a protest set to take place in Limerick City tomorrow, Saturday 21 January.

The protest seeks to highlight the waiting times at the hospital, and call for the reopening of the three Accident and Emergency Departments at nearby Ennis, Nenagh, and St. John’s.

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