Meningitis in your words

Jennifer Gray's story

  • Location: Scotland
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Child
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Jennifer Gray

Jennifer was a third year student at UWS in Paisley studying Forensic Science. For a couple of weeks prior to her passing she had a fairly persistent cold with a sore throat and a cough. These symptoms were mild and not enough for her to require pain relief. She still attended Uni and work, and was able to go out with friends. 

On Friday 15th April she went to Uni, and then in the evening she went out with friends to a club. Her friends reported that over the evening Jennifer felt unwell and was sick at one point. She came home earlier than normal. The next day she felt unwell with a mild headache, sore joints and occasional vomiting. She stayed in her bed but spoke to friends throughout the day by phone and text. She thought she had a bug or a hangover from the night before. She was extremely thirsty all day but uncomplaining and not requiring pain relief.

"On Sunday 17th April Jennifer woke up with a sore head and neck. As the morning progressed her headache did not lessen with paracetamol and then ibuprofen. She called NHS 24 and gave them her symptoms over the phone. They suggested that she attend out of hours at Royal Alexandra Hospital."

Her dad escorted her there and she was sick in the car. Her symptoms deteriorated and by the time she reached the hospital her headache and neck pain had worsened. The on call GP diagnosed either viral meningitis or the flu. Jennifer had neck pain, headache, sore joints, vomiting a high temperature but no rash. By now it was about 11.30am. Jennifer was referred to the medical admissions ward for assessment. On arrival she was taken to a side room where she quickly began to lose consciousness, became agitated and delirious. She was sent to intensive care which organised a CT scan of her head and gave a working diagnosis of meningitis. She was put into an induced coma. The CT scan showed swelling on the brain and a venous thrombosis which was deemed a life or death situation. Jennifer was quickly transferred to neurosurgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She went to theatre in an attempt to relieve the swelling on her brain. Unfortunately it was too late to do this and mum and dad were informed at 7.30pm that Jennifer was brain dead but we would have to wait until abut 11am the next day in order for conclusive tests to be carried out. The surgeon also informed us that her cerebral spinal fluid was clear so therefore it did not appear to have been meningitis which had caused her death.

Jennifer was on the organ donor list and she therefore donated her organs to 5 people including a 5 year old child. She was pronounced dead on 18th April.

"The public health dept telephoned her mum that afternoon to advise that blood tests had found that Jennifer had bacterial meningitis and that anyone in her immediate company required prophylactic medication."

Since her death her family and friends have been fundraising in her memory. Her friend Laura set up a JUSTGIVING page and the total to date is nearly £9000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation. Some other charities have also had a contribution. The fundraisers have been called Jenn’s Tartan Army as Jennifer loved tartan and at the Celebration of her Life lots of people wore tartan shirts. Some of her friends dyed their hair also as Jennifer had bright red hair. 

There is also a memorial garden for Jennifer at her home, where lots of friends have donated plants and garden gifts. Her mum held a coffee morning which rose over £3000. 

The next fundraising event is the Great Scottish Run 10k.

"Lots of people have chosen to join Jenn’s Tartan Army on the march to complete this in her memory and for Meningitis Research Foundation."

Her friend Ewan, who has a degree in product design, has designed a t shirt especially for this event.

Her friend Lewis, who is a talented artist, had given her parents a sketch of Jennifer which they would like to have mass produced and sold to raise funds for MRF.

Her friend Stephanie wrote a beautiful poem about Jennifer which she read out at the Celebration of her life.

The Odeon Cinema at Braehead has changed the charity that they support to MRF. There will be a ceilidh held on 4th November by the Odeon staff. Her mum has approached some local artists who are willing to put on an art exhibition perhaps later in the year or next year. 

"Jennifer was also awarded a posthumous degree as she was one exam away from completing her degree when she died."

The support from the local community and friends that her parents have had has been amazing and they want to continue to fundraise in her memory. Jennifer was an extremely popular girl with many friends and acquaintances. She was a member of PETA and gave generously to SSPCA. She loved animals. She has touched many hearts. She will be remembered as the smiling girl with bright red hair and piercing blue eyes who loved life and lived it to the full.

Edwina & Jamie Gray
August 2016

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