In the early hours of 11/01/2002 my sister called out 'Em I'm cold can you get me a blanket', ‘bloody cheek’, I thought, ‘get your own blanket’. If only I had known at that point that my 19 year old little sister Jolene would be dead in 24 hours. I would have done anything to keep her warm.
Jolene screamed out again and it woke my mum who came in and covered her up with an extra sleeping bag. She complained that her joints hurt and that she felt really cold.
The next morning she woke and was displaying all the classic signs of flu. She had vomited and complained of her eyesight going funny, cold legs and feet. My Dad took her temperature and it was so high that he thought his thermometer was broken. She then took to her bed for the day.
My Mum was concerned and made her an appointment to see the GP that afternoon. She had become so weak and unwell that my Dad had to accompany her into the GP’s room as she was struggling to walk. The GP carried out his assessment of her and to everyone's relief he sent her home with gastric flu.
It was approximately an hour later that I went into her bedroom to ask her if I could borrow her curling tongs. She said I could and told me where they were. I went off to the bathroom and on my return I was horrified to see she had fallen out of her bed. I asked her what she was doing and she had become disoriented as I knelt down next to her I noticed that she had soiled herself and that she had a very faint rash on her tummy. I knew immediately that something was very wrong and phoned an ambulance suspecting meningitis.
It was from this point that Jolene rapidly went down hill. The rash took over her body and was even present in her eyes. She was quickly taken to intensive care where they sedated her. My whole family was there with her and we all said good night to her. She was so weak and in so much pain she just said she wanted to go to sleep.
My brave Mum stood by her side for the next few hours but the septicemia took over her body. The platelets she needed replacing in her blood where unavailable at the hospital and had to be couriered by motorbike from a London hospital. Jolene was put on kidney dialysis and life support machine as her organs were starting to fail but she sadly lost her fight at four am just a little over 24 hours from the first symptoms appearing.
The shock and grief that ripped through my family was unimaginable. How could a young extremely fit public services student die so quickly and suddenly? We were told that she had meningococcal septicemia and that another young man had died of the same thing in the local area a week previously.
My family is devastated by the loss of Jolene; she was such a vibrant young woman who was just starting her life. Jolene was a qualified hairdresser but had just started her public services training because she wanted to become a police officer. She loved horse riding and basically having fun. We have just had the 12th anniversary of her death but the pain is still as raw today as it was the day she died. We have just learned to live with it. Family occasions always have one missing and the impact of losing a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, cousin and friend can still be felt and seen to this day.
Jolene, I was proud to have you as my sister and I miss you every day xxx
The Meningitis Research Foundation have been a great support to us. They visited us a few weeks after Jolene died and have helped us with the befriending service and support days. As a family we raise money for the foundation through raffles, band nights, collection boxes and running marathons. We will always support the foundation, as they understand the horrific impact that meningitis in whatever form causes. People who survive and families that grieve are all supported. The foundation’s on-going research into the disease is vital in protecting our younger generations and communities as well as keeping the medical professions and GP’s up to date with new research. As a family we hope and pray for a cure or vaccination for this devastating disease to prevent others living the nightmare we have had to endure.
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