Dersingham mum tells of how her teenage daughter was taken by meningitis

Stephanie Sanpher. Picture: Submitted. Stephanie Sanpher. Picture: Submitted.

Friday, February 7, 2014
9:24 AM

A heartbroken mother has spoken of how meningitis took her 13-year-old “angel” of a daughter within days of her becoming ill.

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Danger signs

Meningococcal bacteria are common – about 10pc of the population carry them in the back of the nose or throat without causing harm.

They spread between people in droplets from the mouth and nose but very close and prolonged contact is necessary to acquire them.

Parents should seek immediate medical advice if they spot any of the following symptoms:

A high temperature

Vomiting

Severe headache

A stiff neck, aching limbs and joints

A dislike of bright lights

Drowsiness and /or purple rash, which does not fade when pressed.

Stephanie Sanpher, a pupil at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on Tuesday.

Her mother Joanne, 36, said her daughter suffered from epilepsy but was a healthy girl until she became ill with a sore throat last week.

When she gave her daughter a bath she noticed that she had a mark on her arm.

The next morning her daughter vomited and she contacted their doctor as there were other lesions on her body.

An ambulance was called to their home in Dersingham and the teenager was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn and then transferred to Addenbrooke’s by the Children’s Acute Transport Service (CATS) from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mrs Sanpher said: “She was one of those girls that everybody loves. She could go into a room full of strangers and they would immediately take to her.

“She was like a pied piper, like God’s angel. My mother Lorna Proudfoot said she was the best grandchild she could ever have wished for.”

Mrs Sanpher praised the treatment her daughter received from specialists at Addenbrooke’s and from the CATS service, which she said was fantastic.

She said her daughter loved art, music and animals, especially her German Shepherd dog, Maximums. She also had a pet rat, Fabian, that she loved.

She added: “She also had a wicked sense of humour. We loved her so much. She was absolutely our world. She was the most kind and understanding girl. She never judged anybody, was just an angel and no trouble. She loved the TV series Hollyoaks and the band, One Direction.”

Stephanie’s brother Alex, 10, said his sister was “always helpful and played games” with him.

Tributes were also paid to the 13-year-old by Jon Goodchild, headteacher at Smithdon High School.

He said: “It was with great sadness that we told our staff and students yesterday that Stephanie Sanpher, one of our Year 9 students, had passed away on Tuesday at Addenbrookes Hospital. Stephanie had bacterial meningitis.

“We are supporting staff and students through this very difficult time while at the same time giving them every opportunity to talk about their friend and share their memories of her if they wish to do so.

“Stephanie was a kind and caring girl. Staff and students remember her beautiful singing voice and really valued her friendship; she was often the one who would bring a smile to friends’ faces when they needed cheering up, and try to make things better.

“We are all so very sad and our thoughts are with Stephanie’s family; we can only offer them our most sincere sympathy, love and support.”

The county council’s critical incident team is at the school helping to support staff and students.

Students at the school have taken to social media sites to pay tributes. One said: “Everyone from Smithdon is very saddened by the death of Stephanie Sanpher; it just shows how much she is loved by everyone.”

Another pupil added: “At times like these you really see how close we all are at Smithdon, and when we need to we all pull together.”

Last night, Public Health England said the case was being treated as “an isolated incident” and fellow pupils were not at risk of infection.

Dr Giri Shankar, consultant in communicable disease control at Public Health England Anglia and Essex, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and those who knew the young pupil.

“Parents of children at the school have been advised they are not at an increased risk as a result of this case and should not be absent from school.

“However, it is important for everyone to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis, particularly in young children. If you notice any of these, seek medical advice straight away.”

Would you like to add your tributes to Stephanie? Email david.bale2@archant,co.uk

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