Joanna Shenfield

Pneumococcal meningitis at 18

Pneumococcal meningitis

David was 18. He was a lovely natured lad who had a large circle of friends and who loved his job. He passed his driving test in on August 7th 1999, and getting his Ford Fiesta was a dream come true for him. We hardly saw him, but he was happy.

Sunday 20th May 2000
David wakened on the Sunday morning with earache and was in bed most of the day. I gave him painkillers but they didn't help a lot.

Monday 21st May 2000
David got up for work (he was an apprentice technician with Vauxhall), and said his ears were really sore, so he took more painkillers and also took some with him to work.
He came home from work at his normal time of 6pm and said his head had been really bumping since lunchtime. He went into the shower but when he came out he was quite distressed saying his headache was really bad. I called the doctor and was asked to bring David down to the clinic at the local hospital in Glenrothes. He saw a doctor who examined him and said he seemed OK but if he got worse not to hesitate in bringing him back, and he gave him Ibuprofen for the headache. 

We got back around 7pm and David took two tablets and went to bed and slept till just after 9pm, when he asked for his tea as he was feeling a lot better. He went back to sleep then got up at about 11pm with his head bumping again so I called the local hospital for the doctor on call and we took him back to Glenrothes. He was seen by another doctor who, on examining him, said she was not a consultant but assured us it was only a headache. I disagreed as I knew David and his pain tolerance had always been very high and he was never a complainer. He was actually crying with the pain and this was extremely unusual so I believed it was something else, but the doctor got very irate with me and finally threw paperwork at me so we could take David down to Kirkcaldy Hospital. I had to pick the paperwork up from the floor.

We got down to Kirkcaldy Hospital around 1.30am on the Tuesday morning and David was seen by the junior doctor on call who examined him thoroughly, but again diagnosed a very severe headache and he was given an injection for the pain. David slept but was very agitated and around 5am he got up and was violently ill with sickness and diarrhoea and he was 'spaced' out, but we thought it was because he had been taking a lot of painkillers. He finally settled around 6.30am and seemed at peace so the nurse said for us to go home. I asked to be called if anything changed and was assured this would be the case. I was still unsure but I needed to believe the hospital was right. We were asked to go back in at 10am after the doctors had done the morning rounds.

At 9.20am we got a call asking us to go down to the hospital as David's health had deteriorated. On arrival the consultant told us David had taken a fit at 6.50am (20 minutes after we left him and they didn't call us till 9.20am - I was devastated).

David was seen by a registrar who believed he had an aneurism - which in all probability he had born with - but said there was a possibility it could be meningitis, so he put in a central line for input of antibiotics and then ventilated him.

David was transferred into ITU at 10.30am.  At 12.30pm it was confirmed that David had pneumococcal meningitis and his chances of survival were minimal as the brain had suffered extensive damage. I have to add that the consultants, doctors and nursing staff within the ITU unit were absolutely brilliant and very caring. There were tears from them all, we will never forget them.

Wednesday 24th May 2000
David had a stem cell test done and they had some brain reaction. This meant they would have to do it again the next day as they couldn't turn of the ventilator until they were certain there was no brain activity.

Thursday 25th May 2000
They did the test again at 12 noon and pronounced David brain dead and they would turn off the ventilator at 3.30pm that afternoon. His immediate family were with him around his bed.

Over the three days that David was in ITU the care he received was second to none and all his family and friends were allowed to come in and spend time with him, and I stayed with him throughout.

David was brought home for a night before he was buried so we could spend time with him but it still wasn't enough -  he is in all our hearts and always will be. We go up every week to see him and over the years he has had a lot of mementoes left, including red roses, beer, cigarettes and a wee note or two, and it warms my heart to know he was cared for by so many.

When we were arranging David's funeral we wanted donations rather then flowers from friends and the funeral director suggested MRF, so that is how we got involved with the Foundation. It has given us a lot of support and we have met a lot of nice people within the Foundation and also people who have been touched by the disease in one way or another.

I was asked by Jody from the Foundation if I would like the support of a befriender and I was put in touch with a very caring lady called Jeni from Reading. We became friends and we meet up now and again with our respective spouses.

In May 2001 I did the befriending course myself and I became a befriender and I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity of being part of other people's lives and knowing you are never alone in your heartache.

The day I lost my son was the day a piece of me died and that will always be the way it is.

Donate to David's tenth anniversary appeal