Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 13:49 UK

'Measles put me in a coma'

By Pia Harold
BBC News

Doctors are being urged to give all children under 18 the MMR jab amid concern of a growing risk of a measles epidemic.

The illness can be fatal, and can have serious complications.

Only one in 1,000 measles patients develop inflammation of the brain, encephalitis.

In 1985 I was that child.

My illness was initially diagnosed as a bad case of the flu.

But on Boxing Day my temperature was soaring, and my parents called in the emergency doctor.

She took one look, and called the ambulance.

Stories in my sleep

I have had to ask my father for these details because I was delirious at the time.

Once I got to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, I lay in a coma, essentially lifeless, for at least a week. A doctor there confirmed it was encephalitis because she had seen it before in Africa.

John Radcliffe Hospital
The hospital was named after an 18th Century physician

My amazing mother arranged a rota of friends and family to visit and they would play me music and stories. Sometimes she could sleep over at the hospital to be closer to me.

"We worship the ground they walk on there," my father, Michael, says.

I have my own memories of being in a coma - most of which I probably imagined or dreamt afterwards - but none of them are as agonising as what my family went through.

Learning to walk again

When I finally woke up I had a tube in my nose, could not talk and was incredibly weak.

On 15 January my father walked in and asked how I was - I said "OK".

"The best birthday present I ever had", he says.

It took me weeks to build up the muscle to walk again, and I was off school for at least six months. I still don't think my memory and concentration are what they used to be.

But I was one of the lucky ones - one in four sufferers is left with permanent brain damage, one in 10 dies.

When I caught measles it was before the days of the MMR jab - and we had thought I had been immunised against it.

If anyone ever asks me whether to immunise their child against measles I will always say yes, and as soon as possible.

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