Our son David died of meningococcal septicaemia on April 11th 1999, the morning after our daughter's wedding. He was 26 years old.
The weekend before he had played in a hockey tournament with his old university team, and had a wonderful time. He phoned on Monday night and said he ached all over but went to work the next day. On Wednesday he was sick at work and felt worse so we told him to see a doctor. He went the next morning and the doctor examined his throat and told him to take paracetamol. He was working in Southampton and drove himself home to Sunderland the following day.
He arrived home about 4pm and looked ill. We were convinced that he had the gastric 'flu that was going round. He couldn't eat anything and went to bed. He was up during the night with sickness and diarrhoea and while we got ready for the wedding his dad and his girlfriend - who had just qualified as a doctor - took him to the doctor. He said he was severely dehydrated and must take plenty of fluids.
I had heard of meningitis but had never heard of meningococcal septicaemia. The only things I knew about meningitis was severe headaches, stiff neck and dislike of bright lights, and David did not complain of any of these.
We went to the wedding and left David being looked after by his girlfriend. I phoned from the reception and David said he still felt ill and was rather breathless. I told them to phone if he got any worse.
We got a phone call at 4am in the morning from David's girlfriend to say she had taken him into hospital and that he had septicaemia and was seriously ill. We dashed to the hospital to find that David's heart had stopped beating several times but they had managed to start it again. We went to see him; he was heavily sedated and didn't know we were there. I held his hand and it was white while his body was covered with a dark purple rash. Suddenly his heart stopped again and we had to leave while they tried to restart it, unfortunately they could not. We were devastated, a feeling of sheer disbelief. How could my 6ft tall, fit, healthy, sport-loving son be dead?
My son's funeral was held six days after his sister's wedding in the same church. David was a very popular boy and the church was full of his friends from school, university, work, all absolutely shattered at what had happened, especially the hockey team who had been with him the previous weekend. They decided then to do the Great North Run in aid of Meningitis Research Foundation.
We got in touch with the Foundation and they sent us information about this dreadful disease. How I wish I had seen it before, known the symptoms and perhaps saved David. That is why I think the work that they do in spreading awareness of the disease and its symptoms is so important, as well as the vital work in research to find a cure.
We found speaking to people at MRF very helpful and especially a visit from Sarah. I did the befriender training course and we all went to the Family Day, which my daughter found especially beneficial because people often forget how difficult it is for siblings.
We will never get over losing David, I think of him every day and we are still devastated by his death. One consolation is that he lived life to the full and found fun in everything he did - and he did a great deal in his short life. You do learn to live with it and to cope. We still have happy times and enjoy our two grandchildren but our life changed the day David died and nothing will ever be quite the same.