By STUART DYE
Two babies who have become tragic symbols of the battle against the meningitis epidemic were back in surgery yesterday.
It was the worst news for the parents of Charlotte-Cleverley Bisman as surgeons confirmed the disease had taken a further grasp of the seven-month-old's tiny body.
The Waiheke Island baby has lost the lower parts of her arms and legs after being ravaged by infection. Yesterday, she was undergoing more surgery at the Starship Hospital to remove her right leg above the knee and right arm above the elbow.
"We thought she was out of the woods and the worst was over, but it's back. We are heartbroken," said Charlotte's father, Perry Bisman.
The new amputation means the muscles in Charlotte's limbs are unlikely to grow any more, leading to problems with prosthetic attachments later in life.
In the same hospital, 10-month-old Sakiusa "Junior" Uluvula, of Mangere, has had his right arm, the tip of his nose and both his legs below the knee amputated. Surgeons yesterday removed dressings and will decide today if further amputation is necessary. His mother Tima said Junior had been suffering with a temperature since the weekend which doctors feared meant more infection.
"It is more time worrying and waiting and praying, but we have to be prepared that he may lose more of his little body."
Meanwhile, Mr Bisman launched a stinging attack against anti-immunisation campaigners.
In yesterday's Herald, Sue Claridge from the Immunisation Awareness Society, said there was a "climate of fear" and many parents felt vaccination was their only way to fight the disease.
"She is creating a 'climate of misinformation' based on her lack of medical knowledge, and is showing little understanding for the devastation this disease causes," Mr Bisman said. "This attitude shows a complete disregard for others and smacks of self-righteousness."
Mr Bisman said he and his wife, Pam Cleverley, were originally against vaccination and did not like the idea of foreign bodies in children.
Mr Bisman dismissed the argument that the $200 million being spent on immunisation would be better used addressing poverty, overcrowded housing and nutrition.
"We do not live in an overcrowded house, are not poverty-stricken and Charlotte was a perfectly healthy European baby girl whose diet included mother's milk, vitamin supplements, fruit and she had never had a sniffle in her life."
Meningitis was a random disease, killing or disabling our most vulnerable citizens, he said.
"Having watched this brutal disease take hold it makes me angry that people can say immunisation is not a good idea.
"This is not chicken-pox. We are talking disfigurement for life," he said.
Herald Feature: Meningococcal Disease
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By STUART DYE