Heartbroken mum honours daughter, 13, who died after using tampons

A mum whose teenage daughter died from sepsis while on her period is planning an event to mark what would have been her 21st birthday.

Jemma-Louise Roberts was just 13 when she died after suffering suspected Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a bacterial infection that can lead to organ failure and cause the body to shut down.

A member of Hindley Swimming Club, Jemma had begun using tampons as a more convenient way to keep training while on her period the Manchester Evening News reports.

She was wrongly diagnosed with winter vomiting bug norovirus after she began feeling unwell with sickness and diarrhoea on a family holiday in 2014.

After suddenly deteriorating she was transferred to Wigan Infirmary where doctors told her family they believed she had Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, a severe form of sepsis caused by a bacteria linked to using tampons.

She died a week later after being transferred first to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and then Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Since her death, Jemma's mum Diane Roberts has been raising awareness of the TSS danger signs.

She appeared in the MEN last year to highlight her Jemma-Louise Rocks initiative, where painted pebbles featuring colourful designs and information on TSS and sepsis were being found and re-hidden across the globe.

Now Diane, from Wigan, is planning to mark what would have been Jemma's 21st birthday with a family event at Haigh Woodland Park to help raise money for The UK Sepsis Trust.

Taking place at 7pm on July 13, adults and children are invited to 'run, walk, roll, hop, skip or jump' the 5k, while wearing bright colours or fancy dress.

Diane said: "One of Jemma's best friends approached me and asked if we could organise an event for her 21st, she suggested a 5K run and Haigh Woodland Park was always special to Jemma.

"Wigan Council have been amazing as has the support from The UK Sepsis Trust. It's such a special way to celebrate what would have been her 21st birthday whilst raising awareness and money for the trust at the same time.

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"I'd like to thank James Winterbottom, from Wigan Council, and Councillor Chris Ready for their ongoing support, Keith Bergman from Haigh Woodland Park for all his help with organising the event, and of course Jemma's friend Libby Murray for suggesting it."

Diane, who also has a son Joseph, feels too many people are still unaware that TSS even exists.

"I try, through social media, to create awareness of TSS and sepsis, but there's only so much I can do," she said. "It's said to be rare, but I know of at least five girls or young women who've had it. Of course it isn't just girls and young women, men can also get TSS, that's why being aware of the signs and symptoms is so important."

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The NHS lists these TSS symptoms:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 39C (102.2F) or above
  • flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, chills, muscle aches, a sore throat and a cough
  • feeling and being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • a widespread sunburn-like rash
  • the whites of the eyes, lips and tongue turning a bright red
  • dizziness or fainting
  • breathing difficulties
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • Sometimes you may also have a wound on your skin where the bacteria got into your body, but this isn't always there and it may not look infected.
  • More information here

Go to www.sepsistrust.org for more information. To sign up for the Family 5k, costing £12.50 for over 14s or £7 for ages five to 13 (under fives free), see Eventbrite here.

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