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Anne Geddes turns her lens to a new subject: survivors of meningitis

Anne Geddes is famous for her ultra-cute photos of babies popping out of flower blossoms. Recently, however, the Australian photographer turned her lens on 15 child survivors of meningococcal disease, a life-threatening inflammation of the brain and spinal-cord linings that can cause limb loss, brain damage and learning disabilities. 

When the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations approached Geddes to do the series, she took care to focus on the children’s “haunting beauty,” she said. The new series, downloadable as a free e-book, portrays the children as classical statues marked by time. A boy whose calf ends in a stump assumes the pose of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. A young woman perched on a bust of Helen of Troy looks like a princess warrior in her own right, although she is missing her lower limbs and feet. 

For these children, Geddes said, “losing their limbs doesn’t define them.” But she said she hopes that Protecting Our Tomorrows: Portraits of Meningococcal Disease will persuade parents to have their children vaccinated against bacterial meningitis (meningococcal disease), and raise awareness of other forms of the disease caused by bacteria and fungus. 

 Meningitis masquerades as a bad cold or flu, but can cause death within 24 hours. In Canada, there are about 200 cases of meningitis (in all forms) each year. Geddes urges parents who suspect their child has meningitis to “act quickly and decisively – you know your child, as a parent, better than anyone else.”

Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly referred to vaccination against viral meningitis. Vaccination is aimed at preventing bacterial meningitis.
Anne Geddes

Jamie, 25, United States

As a sophomore in college, Jamie was rushed to the hospital with what she thought was an asthma attack but was, in fact, meningococcal septicemia. Jamie lost both legs below the knees and fingers on both hands, and underwent multiple skin grafts as a result of the disease.
Anne Geddes

Matteo, 9 months, Canada

Matteo was diagnosed with meningococcal disease when he was four months old. Remaining in the hospital for more than a month, multiple procedures were performed to minimize scarring from his fight.

Anne Geddes

Julio, 15, Brazil

Julio was 12 years old when he began experiencing flu-like symptoms, pain in his legs and dark spotting on his feet. After being admitted to intensive care, he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease and battled for his life in the days that followed. He suffered the loss of both legs and the fingers on one of his hands in order to survive.

Anne Geddes

Kate, 18, Canada

Five days after returning from being a counsellor at summer camp, Kate contracted meningococcal disease. She spent months recovering and was left with dark purple scars on her legs.

Anne Geddes

Benjamin, 15, Canada

Benjamin was four months old when he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease and had to fight for his life. He was left with significant brain damage and had both legs, right hand and several fingers amputated.

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