The memory of a rugby-loving teen who died after contracting meningitis will live on after his organs saved six people.
Lewis Hilton, 19, was fit and healthy before being struck down by the deadly strain of the disease.
His condition rapidly deteriorated and tragically, by the time he arrived at the hospital near his West Yorkshire home on January 26, he was unable to walk by himself or communicate.
Despite the best efforts of medics who “did everything they could,” the infection overwhelmed Hilton’s body and he died two days later.
Now, his tragic death has helped to save six other people after his grieving parents donated his organs.
Hilton received vaccinations against the A, C, W and Y strains of meningitis in September 2017, but he was not vaccinated against the strain that cut his young life short – meningitis B.
There have already been calls in the U.K. for the meningitis B vaccine to be rolled out to Hilton’s age group, where death rates are much higher than in babies.
Despite the devastating loss of their only son, his parents Tracy and Morley are determined to honor their child.
They are working with charity Meningitis Now to call for teenagers to be vaccinated against meningitis B.
“Lewis had been vaccinated against other strains of meningitis – A,C, W and Y – just four months before he died, but the vaccine for meningitis B is only given to babies,” Tracy Hilton said. “We have since found out that you can buy it for £100 at Boots. Had we known that we would have paid for Lewis to have it and he could be alive today.”
“We believe children should be vaccinated at school against this strain but, if not, then people should know they can pay for it privately,” she said.
Tracy is still haunted by the events leading up to her “kind and wonderful” son’s death.
“He just thought he had the flu. I went up to his room on Friday morning and he was in bed and complaining of a bad headache,” she said. “I knew something was wrong as he was never ill and never complained so I called the NHS helpline.”
“I soon realized they were talking me through the symptoms of meningitis and I knew then I had to get him to hospital as soon as possible although he never developed the tell-tale rash we are told to look out for when they are small,” she said.
When they got to hospital, Lewis was struggling to walk and talk and, despite being seen quickly, he tragically died on the Sunday morning.
The MenACWY vaccine which Hilton was given is a single shot containing vaccines against meningitis A, C, W and Y.
The NHS recommend the ideal age for the vaccine to be given is 14, but it is also given to incoming college students and young adults who may come into contact with a variety of new people.
The MenB vaccination, a new dose which was approved in 2015, is given to babies at both 8 and 16 weeks.
The Hiltons take some comfort in the fact that because Hilton never got the rash he hadn’t developed septicaemia, which meant his organs could be donated.
Six people’s lives were saved thanks to the brave young man.
“We had been watching a program about the shortage of organ donors and the need for more people to be on the register,” Tracy Hilton said. “Although we didn’t ask Lewis directly, as you never think you are going to need to, he was there when we were talking about it and that’s why we knew it was the right thing to do.”
The Hiltons, who had to be treated with antibiotics themselves, set up the Lewis Hilton Forever Fund which to date has raised more than $12,000 for Meningitis Now.
“I would like to commend Lewis’ parents, Tracey and Morley Hilton, for their bravery and selflessness at such a difficult time,” Dr. Tom Nutt, CEO at Meningitis Now, said. “Their decision to help save the lives of six strangers, when their beloved son had just died, is brave beyond words.”
“Lewis’ family and friends are truly inspiring and their fundraising efforts have been remarkable raising more than $12,000 so far and in such a short period of time,” Nutt said. “Lewis’ story is a tragic reminder of how quickly meningitis can take hold, and how important it is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.”
“At Meningitis Now we always say ‘don’t wait for a rash’, as it can often be one of the last symptoms of meningitis, or may not appear at all – as in Lewis’ case,” he said. “Therefore, if you suspect meningitis, seek medical help immediately.”
Lewis’s best friend Joe Brayshaw, 18, will take part in the Leeds Triathlon this Sunday in his memory.
Brayshaw is doing the swim, cycle and run for Meningitis Now to raise awareness and money for research into the disease that killed Hilton, his friend since primary school.
He has already raised just over $2,000 in sponsorship.
Speaking about his fundraising undertaking, Joe said:
“I’ve chosen to support Meningitis Now to help fund research for this horrible disease and to make sure anybody affected gets the support they need from the charity,” Brayshaw said. “I know from my own experience this charity really does everything it can not only for the person directly affected by meningitis but also the close friends and family of the victim.”
Old Rishworthians rugby club has created the Lewis Hilton Memorial Award which will be presented annually.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support from people, in particular Lewis’s rugby club, they have been amazing,” Tracy Hilton said.
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