Matt Dawson 'absolutely helpless' over son's meningitis battle


Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson has told of feeling terrified and "helpless" as his two year-old son lay fighting for his life in hospital.

The star said he and his wife Carolin had been "overwhelmed" by the support they have received since posting heartbreaking images of his son Sam - who he refers to as Sami - covered in a rash as he battled meningitis C.

The toddler is now well and back at home with the family, but Dawson told Radio 5 Live that he felt "absolutely helpless" as for a week he watched his seriously sick son hooked up to machines in hospital fearing the worst.

He said: "By the hour it was becoming real because you are watching the rashes and lesions develop, and the doctors and nurses were incredible but you are constantly asking them 'Is everything OK?'

"And at the back of your mind, you don't want to say it but you are thinking it, you want to say 'Is he going to die? Is he going to survive this?'

"Even if you hint towards it, they can't say it because there was an enormous chance Sami wouldn't survive.

"I think when that dawned on both myself and Carolin that was without doubt the lowest moment. I've described that for a minute or so, but that lowest moment was over a week."

The BBC Question of Sport star said he was moved to share the photographs of his son on Twitter after reading about the case of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone in Kent, who died from the illness.

She was the same age as his son, and admitted to hospital on the same day.

Her story was shared thousands of times on social media and prompted more than 250,000 people to sign a petition calling for the meningitis B vaccine to be given to all children, not just newborn babies.

Dawson said: "It just hammered home the need to make people aware. For me it is not just about meningitis B, it is the principle that whatever vaccination is out there the children should be having it - doesn't matter if it is A, B, C, W, Y, Z. All those six strains should be covered and there should be no excuses."

He warned that many parents do not know the symptoms of meningitis, and called for awareness to be raised.

When his son fell ill, Dawson and his wife did not initially realise how sick he was and just thought he was just under the weather.

They only went to A&E after their doctor said they might as well, and went to Chelsea & Westminster hospital only because the traffic was very bad on the way to their nearest hospital.

Dawson said: "In an hour of being at A&E he was put to sleep and didn't wake up for a week. It was all from having it all under control and knowing our children to him being in an induced coma in a matter of hours.

"My wife and I look at it and think we could have easily put Sami to bed that night and said sleep it off - easily - and we could have never seen him again".

He added: "Awareness of catching this early and seeing the signs early can be the difference."