Janet Crowther

Meningococcal disease at 17

Meningococcal disease

The day started normally with Rachael having 'flu like' symptoms.  By tea-time on 23rd July 1998 we became more concerned as Rachael was not one to put on an illness.  Around 7pm we decided to take her to the hospital as I always had meningitis in the back of my mind.

I will never forget Rachael walking slowly into hospital, wearing her T-shirt and jogging bottoms - something she would never have done as she was so proud of looking good.  

The hospital staff went through various options - food poisoning, toxic shock syndrome etc but I was still worried; they decided to keep her in overnight.  They performed a lumbar puncture but still nothing was found.  

Rachael was gradually getting worse and around 10am on the 24th she complained of a 'pain' behind her knee and to our horror we discovered the rash which can come with meningitis. The hospital staff went into overdrive and carried out the many tasks they knew to try and fight the disease, injections, help with her breathing and we had to wear face-masks.

By 3pm Rachael was taken into intensive care and placed on a ventilator.  We were told that there was a 50/50 chance and we desperately hung on to that thought.  They fought very hard but at 5.30pm that day she was taken from us, only 24 hours after feeling poorly.  Rachael passed over with meningococcal septicaemia.  We were devastated and couldn't take it in.   

There are days now when we find it hard to cope but Rachael was a fighter and we remember how she would have dealt with it and find the strength to get through.

Rachael was an active 17-year-old who trampolined for Yorkshire and Kirklees Rebound; she was studying for her 'A' levels and working part-time at Turners News with her sister and dad, getting up very early and still looking good; she would look good no matter what time of the day it was.  

We keep Rachael's memory with us at all times in the home with photos and little things in her room; when away when we take a photo or memory, we also talk about her and bring her into conversations.

We also set up the trampoline club, Abbey Flyers, in November 2000 just after Rachael's 20th birthday.  Rachael's name lives on in the club as there is an Annual Award every year when a trophy is presented in her name to someone who has achieved something special in the year.  There is also a Yorkshire Award for the best form at trampolining in the 'Rachael Crowther Trophy' and one at the annual competition between Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.  Sheffield Schools also have a trophy to remember Rachael in their annual trampoline competition.  Rachael had an enormous amount of respect amongst her peers and elders; she was a very special kind of person.

We will never get over the loss of our precious daughter, Rachael, but in her memory will help in the fight against these terrible diseases; the meningitis C vaccine was available from 1999, one year after we lost Rachael. We will continue to help Meningitis Research Foundation until a vaccine is produced for the B strain.  

We became involved with the Foundation shortly after Rachael's passing, initially through fundraising but I went on to become a befriender, speaking or writing to people in a similar circumstance to ours.  We feel that it is so important to deal with people who have lost someone to the disease rather than someone who hasn't. We still fundraise ten years after losing Rachael.

APRIL 2009