It was the eve of the new Millennium. My son, Daryl, who had turned 14 a few weeks earlier, was feeling really poorly. He was complaining of a headache, joint pains, stomach ache, stiff neck, dislike of the light and was feeling sick. I immediately called the GP. He told me, over the phone without seeing Daryl, that he had the flu! I was to keep giving him paracetamol and to put him to bed to rest.
A few hours later, Daryl seemed a lot worse, so I called the GP again. This time, Daryl had a slight rash on his stomach. The GP told me that the rash confirmed that Daryl had gastric flu. He still would not come out and told me to stop worrying.
An hour later, my eldest daughter, Charlotte who was 15, saw the rash all over his chest and neck. She had previously learnt about meningitis and the glass test at school. She ran downstairs to fetch a glass. A few moments later, she was screaming my name; the rash wouldn't go away. I called the GP once more - he came straight out. By this time, Daryl was delirious and making strange low groaning sounds. He started to have a seizure. The GP said he didn't know what was wrong and so called an ambulance. (We later learned from the hospital that the GP had called them and said he thought Daryl was drunk).
On arrival at the hospital, the nursing sister ripped Daryl's shirt off and saw his rash. Whilst the doctors tried to take blood from Daryl, the sister told me she thought he had meningitis and that they would have to take him to intensive care.
They wheeled him into the lift; seconds later, Daryl's heart stopped. The doctor started pumping Daryl's chest. We got out of the lift at intensive care; doctors rushed Daryl through. I was asked to sit and wait outside. A priest came to sit with me. My husband had been at a friend's New Year party and I had phoned a friend to find him. He joined me and started to cry.
We waited for a few hours before the doctors came to get us. They invited us into a side room. They started to talk, I could see their mouths moving and my husband nodding and putting his head in his hands. I couldn't hear any noise at all, I was shutting it out, I didn't want to hear my son had died. I asked if I could see him, the doctors agreed but told me not to be afraid of the machines, these were keeping him alive. My son was alive, I cried so much as the Doctor realised I hadn't heard a word he had said! He put his arm round me and told me Daryl was in a coma and a specialist team from Addenbrooke's Hospital were on their way to collect him.
Daryl was in a coma at Addenbrooke's for a few more days. He had a lumbar puncture which confirmed he had meningococcal septicaemia. His friend was also brought in with the same thing. They had been at a party a few days previously and had been sharing drinks.
We never left Daryl's bedside and when he did wake up, he very weakly asked me what all these people were doing in his room! I just stroked his hair and cried.
Daryl had a slight palsy of his eyes, but that is now resolved. He also has learning disabilities. He has gone on to lead a normal life, he got married and now has a son of his own.
I spoke to the foundation a few weeks after Daryl had been discharged from the hospital. I was relieved to find there was help at the end of the phone. Someone that really understood what we had just been through and also someone that could tell us what the future may hold.