The tale of a first-time mum from Penryn whose ten-week-old son was struck down with viral meningitis is being used to raise awareness of the condition by the Meningitis Trust.

Laura Badger has made a formal complaint over the treatment and advice she was given by an out of hours doctor who she claims treated her as though she was over-reacting and panicking. She was told to give son, Lewis, Calpol and that if he hadn’t “turned blue,” she need not worry.

Lewis had been taken to his doctor on the Monday after he developed a temperature and refused to take milk. He was examined thoroughly and Laura was told it was probably a virus and she should administer Calpol.

“In the early hours of Wednesday he became unwell and so we called the out of hours service at 4am,” said Laura, 29. “He was really, really crying and was breathing very quickly and seemed a lot worse so that’s when we telephoned the out of hours doctor.”

She was told to give Lewis Calpol and that the doctor would ring again in an hour. “It did calm him, but then we noticed his breathing was getting funny so were relieved when the doctor called back,” said Laura. “I explained we were really worried and his breathing was irregular with long pauses, but he (the doctor) did not seem concerned at all.

“He said if he had not turned blue, we didn’t need to worry. I was told to let him sleep so that’s what we did and kept an eye on him throughout the day. His breathing was still irregular, he still wouldn’t take milk and started getting floppy.”

The couple called an ambulance and Lewis was taken straight to hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from viral meningitis.

Laura and her husband, Steven, have nothing but praise for the staff at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, but are highly critical of the treatment they received from the out of hours doctor. “I would not have the confidence to use them again and would just ring an ambulance straight away,” said Laura, of Round Ring Gardens.

“I should have been seen that night. He shouldn’t have tried to diagnose and advise me over the telephone. I think the doctor thought I was a new mum who was panicking and over-reacting. I was panicking, but I had a justifiable reason.”

Dr Louis Warren of Serco, who manages the Cornwall GP out of hours service, said: “I am sorry that the Badger family were unhappy about the service they received but we are very pleased that young Lewis has made a full recovery from his illness.

“Their concerns were thoroughly and properly reviewed by our medical director and whilst it is always sad to hear when a young child deteriorates and is admitted to hospital, the medical advice given to the family by the GP at the time of the two calls was completely appropriate.”

Laura and Steven’s tale is now being featured on the Meningitis Trust’ website to draw attention to the condition.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK, said: “We are very grateful to Laura for helping to raise awareness of viral meningitis by sharing Lewis’ story. There are common misconceptions among health professionals and the general public that the disease is always ‘mild’, which is why this year we launched our first ever Viral Meningitis Week, to highlight the true impact of the disease.”