Brave Sophie’s parents back walk for Trust

Craig Barnett Cottage'Graham, Sophie, Jamie and laura Vernett'27th August 2011'Pic: Roberto Cavieres
Craig Barnett Cottage'Graham, Sophie, Jamie and laura Vernett'27th August 2011'Pic: Roberto Cavieres

THE parents of a young girl who was left deaf after suffering a rare form of meningitis are appealing for people to help them raise cash for the Meningitis Trust.

Laura (38) and her husband Graham Vernett (43), who live near Strathblane, are encouraging everyone to go along to a charity walk/family day at Mugdock Country Park on Sunday, September 11.

Their daughter Sophie (8) contracted the life-threatening illness when she was just 11 months old and she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at the age of two.

Hearing aids did nothing for her so she had a cochlear implant fitted when she was two years old at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock.

Laura, marketing director of Glasgow solicitors Harper Macleod, said: “We knew she was very ill when she got meningitis but she didn’t get a rash.

“She was limp, vacant and a horrible grey colour and our GP referred her to Yorkhill. They did a lumbar puncture and discovered she had pneumococcal meningitis.

“The next 24 hours were critical and an intensive care consultant said we’d know after that which way she was going to go.

“Fortunately, she didn’t need to be in intensive care and was taken to a ward - for the first three days she was in a lot of pain.”

Sophie, a pupil at Craigdhu Primary School, Milngavie, communicated at first by lip reading and sign language. She learned how to speak after her first implant was inserted with help from a therapist and she had a second implant last July to further improve her hearing.

This second operation was far more challenging as Sophie didn’t want it. She didn’t think she needed it but her parents persuaded her that she’d be able to hear better in noisy environments.

Sophie didn’t want to be put to sleep or wear the gown and she refused to go on a trolley so she walked to the theatre.

Afterwards she was in a lot of pain and wouldn’t talk to her parents at first as she blamed them. She also refused to turn on the sound for her existing implant as she wanted to be in her own silent world during this difficult time. She was very sick for a few days but within a week she was back to her normal self and had switched on both sound receptors and she hasn’t looked back since.

Laura said: “The progress Sophie has made really is testament to her determination and strong character. She has embraced the implants and recognised how it could help her communicate and more actively participate in what’s going on around her.

“Sophie does everything that other girls do, including gymnastics, swimming and the Girls Brigade. She also really enjoyed art therapy sessions with he Meningitis Trust - they have been a fantastic support to the whole family.

“We have attended many of their family days which allowed us to meet other people who have been through a similar experience. Sadly others have not been as lucky as us, they have lost a child to meningitis, so we realise we are lucky to have Sophie with us.”

There will be a barbecue at the Mugdock event as well as a bouncy castle, face painting, arts and crafts and one mile walk.

It starts 11.30am, please register by e-mailing Jo Stevenson at joannas@meningitis-trust.org or call 0845 120 4885. Cost £20 for a family or £8 per adult/£4 per child. Participants will get a free family pass to Esporta in Milngavie.