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meningitis & septicaemia can kill in hours!

People who are faced with meningitis and septicaemia have to act fast to help save a life.

Beren Rowbotham

Meningococcal disease at 10

Meningococcal disease

I remember the 15th of April 2008 like it was yesterday.

My sister Beren was - and still is, in my mind - a bubbly, friendly and comforting soul mate.

Our family had been through a lot the previous year with the separation of my parents, and this made us closer than ever. We were playmates and always consulted each other.

On the tragic day she was taken from me, I remember coming home from school and waiting until she got home from a friend's birthday party. I could tell something was wrong. She was not her usual excitable self like ten year olds are when they come back from a party. She seemed fluey and said she was cold.

Me and my mum didn't suspect a thing. She went to bed early and I remember me and my mum talking about her and how she was going to have the next day off school to recover. We did not know she was to never see her school friends again.

Later that evening, before I went to bed, I went into her room and the last time I ever touched her she was burning with a temperature and did not want me to touch her again and flinched away. She did not talk much and I thought, again, that she had just caught a bug at school, the school she loved. I then went about my routine and went to bed.

About 4 in the morning, I got woken by the sound of my mum hastily walking in and out of my sister's room. I thought the 'flu' she had caught had got worse and investigated. I asked my mum, poking my head out of my bedroom, which was situated next to Beren's, 'what's going on?'. My mum told me sharply to go back to bed and stay there. Not wanting to get in the way, I did so. I could not sleep and soon I looked out the window, knowing that my darling Beren was being taken away. An ambulance was sitting outside. The doors closed. Silence surrounded our farmhouse as the ambulance drove off.

Hastily, I rang my dad, who lived 14 miles away, to see if he knew what was going on. He said he was on his way to the hospital and I was to stay at home. It was heart-wrenching.
Later in the morning, at around 8 o'clock, my mum rang when her partner got home from his night shift. I was told that his dad was coming to collect us from our house and take us to the hospital. In my mind, I could imagine that Beren was lying in a hospital bed and I went into her room to find her teddy.

In the car onto the way to the hospital I was nervous, anticipating what news was waiting for me when we arrived. I rang my dad to ask what was going on and he told me that his little girl was seriously ill and broke down on the phone. It's heart breaking to hear parents cry.  

I knew then that something was really wrong and instinctively left the soft toy I had bought for Beren in the car when we eventually arrived at the hospital.

Reaching the A&E department me, my brother and my mum's partner were sent into the family room and told to wait. After what seemed like forever, my dad, my dad's partner and my mum came in. I will never forget the words 'we have lost Beren' which came from my dad's lips.

At first it did not sink in. Lost? Why?

Then the tears came. I do not know how long we were in that room. Just hugging each other and crying.

We were told by the head doctor - who had a truly amazing team at the A&E department - that meningitis and septicaemia had taken Beren from us. The virus had got into her blood stream and spread around her body so fast nothing could be done.

Eventually we left the hospital (me and my brother), while my parents made the arrangements. A friend of the family looked after us both wonderfully. All I wanted was to see my little sister again.

The guilt also set in and I questioned myself over and over: 'why couldn't it have been me?'; 'why her?', 'why didn't I help? Maybe she would have survived?' I know now that nothing could have been done as it had spread to her brain so quickly.

The funeral was beautiful. I had painted her bright pink coffin, her favourite colour, with flowers and all her friends and family attended. I read one of my and Beren's favourite poems, the memories overwhelming me as I now had acknowledged that this was goodbye.  

Even now, nearly two years on, I miss her every second. Often thinking 'what would we be doing now?' and imagining that she had survived and we would shop and go places together again.

The loneliness is unimaginable. I lost my greatest friend and my soul mate and the wounds will never heal. All I can focus on now is celebrating what a wonderful childhood we had and how happy she and I had been.

CENDL ROWBOTHAM

NOVEMBER 2009

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