Andrew was a lovely 20 year old young man, extremely fit, a non-smoker, who loved life. He enjoyed playing rugby, football, swimming, trained at the gym and had taken his Gold and Silver Duke of Edinburgh awards. His friends were a nice decent bunch of lads. He had a brother and sister who loved him very much.
It was a sunny Sunday morning in September, my husband had woken early and he had arranged to go and look at a Caterham in Portsmouth early so when he go t back he could do a bit of work in the garden.
After he left at about 8.45am I heard Andrew get up and being sick in the bathroom. This was unusual for him because Sunday he would normally stay in bed for a lay in as he had worked hard all week training to be a heating engineer. I went into the bathroom and said ‘what’s wrong Andrew? What has made you sick, did you eat anything last night when you went out with Sam?’. He said ‘no Mum but I was really shaking in bed just now and I feel really hot’. I said perhaps he was going down with the flu, because he had said his joints had been aching on the Wednesday, and I had commented then on how tired he looked.
I remembered asking him if he had a headache, he said a bit, but the sickness and feeling sick troubled him more so I went downstairs and got him ibuprofen and gave them to him with some water. I said try to rest and see how you feel for a bit, so he stayed in bed and seemed to doze off.
About an hour later he was up again being sick. I asked him how his headache was, he said ‘I’ve still got it, I wish I could stop this sick feeling’.
I rang my husband at about 10.15am and I explained what was going on and he said he would be home soon. I then spoke to my mum and she suggested I should phone the doctor. I went back to Andrew’s room and he had gone back to sleep so I thought when he wakes up if he is still no better I’ll ring the doctor.
About 40 minutes passed, he woke again and was sick. This time I said I’m ringing your Dad and I’m going to ring for a doctor, so I rang my husband and said you need to come home, I’m worried about Andrew.
I rang the doctor at 11.30am, I was given a number on the answer phone which I dialled, it took ages for it to connect and at last I got through to NHS Direct and spoke to a nurse. I described Andrew’s symptoms, she asked me a few questions and then said can she speak to Andrew. I believe she asked him what was worse – the headache or the sickness. He said the sickness. She told him to sip water. Andrew passed the phone back to me and the nurse had hung up.
Stuart, my husband, walked in. I explained the situation and he rang straight back and said he wanted a doctor. They said this would be approximately one hour. It was 12pm. When it got to 1.15pm I rang again and they said there was a delay, not much longer. Andrew was lying in bed drifting in and out of sleep. I looked at his arms and legs – he had no rash.
It got to 2pm, I rang and the doctor was lost. At 2.15pm he arrived and as he walked up the stairs I was with Andrew. He said ‘my head is really hurting now’. The doctor said ‘Andrew what is your name and date of birth?’. He said he couldn’t remember. The doctor said ‘can you lift your head up Andrew?’, and he said ‘no I can’t’. The doctor said to get an ambulance straight away. I held Andrew’s hands and said ‘just breathe deeply, I’m here’. The last words he said was ‘Mum my head hurts’.
The ambulance came very quickly and they rushed us to hospital. I think the disease attacked Andrew’s brain very quickly, I was told he had meningitis septicaemia. They then put Andrew on a machine to help him breathe. I later realised this was a life support machine.
My husband arrived and I just sat looking at the bed in total shock. His younger brother and sister were then brought to hospital. Time went by, we went home for a couple of hours then back to hospital. I just wanted to be there and hold his hand. By now word had got around and the hospital was inundated with friends of Andrew’s, all wanting to see him.
Even in death Andrew wanted to give. The sister approached us and said did I realise Andrew was an organ donor. He had filled in the form when applying for his driving licence at 17. I had completely forgotten about this. Even though Andrew gave the gift of life they couldn’t use his organs because the rash was inside his body.
How do you say goodbye to your own young son who looked so healthy and well just a few hours ago? It was the worst day of our lives.
All I can say to any parent, youngsters are not invincible, if they don’t feel well and you are worried, don’t wait for a doctor, take them yourselves to the hospital or call an ambulance.
It will soon be two years, but it feels like yesterday. We are slowly getting back to some sort of normality, but the pain never leaves.