I am 28 now but was 16 when my older brother Dom contracted meningitis. There was six years between us and we were therefore subject to the usual sibling rivalries; I was always an angel, he always picked on his little sister unnecessarily (although perhaps others saw it differently!).
Dom had flown the nest to live independently but came home the morning he felt unwell as his doctors were still close to home. The doctor told him he probably had food poisoning and to go home and rest. If only that had been the case.
By early evening, he had deteriorated badly and by that night he had been taken by ambulance to the intensive care unit where he was immediately put on a life support machine. If I am honest, I cannot remember how many days he was there; I found it the typical blur that hospitals usually are.
I do remember some things though. I remember what his consultant looked like and that you had to buzz in and out of the ward. I remember that he was in isolation and what jumper I was wearing. I remember the way he looked and how it felt when I squeezed his hand.
I know I begged him to get better as he lay in that hospital and made lots of promises to him on the condition that he would just open his eyes. I truly would have given him anything he wanted.
I went home for the night at some point and was in bed when the phone rang early in the morning. I was told that the doctors had taken the decision to turn off Dom's life support machine, but they would wait until I got to the hospital until they did anything. Dom died on the 13th December 1996, shortly after I got to the hospital.
I found the times immediately after Dom died tough. I tortured myself with the 'why?' questions, that, of course, no-one could ever answer. I wished that it had been me instead and felt guilty that I was still alive - able to see, breathe, touch and feel. I got angry when people told me that time was a great healer - when would there ever be a day when I would not be dominated by thoughts of him? But through these difficult times I also had the hundreds of great memories to draw upon. They put a smile on my face as did the comforting thought that his 22 years were filled with fun and laughter.
I have had periods of immense lows since Dom's death and times when it felt like the dark cloud I had inside was just eating me up. I have survived the loss and become stronger due to some fortuitous good luck but mostly due to the ongoing, unconditional, love of my wonderful parents. I am immensely lucky to have them and even more so that they have always let me go off and do my own thing, even though I imagine the need to wrap me up in cotton wool was overwhelming.
I was always a child who was careful, methodical and planned for the future. As an adult, I am more laid back and I like to think I now carry some of Dom's carefree spirit with me. I am that cliché - I am a stronger person for what I have been through, but that is not to say I would give everything that I now have to bring him back.