The Catholic Parish of
Saint John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds

At death's door after chickenpox

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"Callum still asks about his legs. He will say to me 'how big were my feet?' and he will tell people he could run fast when he had his legs. It twists in me like a knife", said Shelley who has now given up work completely to care for her son.

"But he has done incredibly well, having legs will just be a distant memory for Callum soon and he is getting on with life now."

Callum, who is now aged seven, returned to St Theresa's School, Leeds, full time in September and has managed, with the help of a carer, to join in almost all the activities.

"Callum is happy, the only thing he can't do is walk, but he says he is going to be a champion arm wrestler instead," said Shelley.

The kindness of others

A trust fund has been set up for Callum to help him cope with life in the future. Although he cannot wear artificial legs now because of his skin grafts, it is hoped that he will be able to in the future and the money will help buy the type he needs, which can cost up to £6,000.

Family, friends and former colleagues in the prison service have all chipped in to raise cash by arranging all kinds of events from five-a-side football matches to sponsored slims.

The family's home has been altered to make life easier for Callum, partly funded by the Yorkshire Region of The Variety Club children's charity.

Yorkshire committee members Terry Milner and John Stubbs visited the family and Terry used his knowledge of the building industry to suggest structural changes to the family home which have now been carried out.

They included knocking down internal walls, building a new ground floor wetroom/bathroom and creating a downstairs bedroom which Callum will use when he is too big for his parents to carry upstairs.

Shelley said: "The alterations to the house will make a huge difference to Callum's life. We have met incredible kindness, sometimes from complete strangers. It has given us such faith in people, so many people have helped us."

What is purpura fulminans?

Purpura fulminans is a problem with the clotting system of the blood and is an extremely rare complication of chickenpox.

Dr Mike Richards, consultant paediatric haematologist at St James's Hospital who treated Callum, said: "I have only come across one case before in Leeds in the seven years I have been here, and it was much milder and did not result in amputation. Callum was extremely ill and could have died."

Purpura fulminans develops when the antibodies formed by the body to kill the chickenpox virus start to attack other elements in the blood as well, throwing the clotting system out of balance.

The result in Callum's case was that his blood began to clot, cutting off the blood supply to his legs.

The lack of a blood supply also caused his skin to die up to his waist.

He was treated with the anti-clotting agents Protein C and Protein S, which occur naturally in the body but were at a low level in Callum because of his body's reaction to the chickenpox virus, but sadly the treatment failed to save his legs.


Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, a member of the herpes family of viruses. Symptoms include a blistering rash and mild fever, loss of appetite, headache and sore throat. The infection is spread by direct contact or inhalation. Child deaths are very rare, but about 20 adults a year die in the UK from complications of the virus.

© 05 April 2006 Jayne Dawson

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Published Fri 7th Apr 2006 07:34:44

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