Meningitis in your words

Michael Alexander Ord's story

  • Location: Wales
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Michael Alexander Ord
Michael Alexander Ord was born in Chester on the 20th April 1979.   He died on the 7th July 1993, aged 14. The dearly-loved son of Anne and Stuart Ord and brother of Laura, who was nine years old when he died. 

He had many interests including karate, swimming, computing, and being with friends. Michael was a kind person, considerate of others with a great sense of humour. He was a good student with a great ability for maths and science and he also represented his school in sporting events. He loved his family, especially his sister Laura.

On the 6th July I drove Michael to the local hospital for a routine appointment and then took him on to school in time for him to join some classmates who were being taken to the nearby town of Wrexham to participate in the County Sports Day.  He told me he'd be home late.  

However, later in the day when I was in the middle of preparing dinner, he called me asking if I'd pick him up from Wrexham (about 10 miles away) as he wasn't feeling too good, and said he hadn't felt good for most of the day.  I asked, as they were due to leave soon, could I just pick him up from school on his return, at which he said OK. But a few moments later a teacher called saying he'd give me instruction on how to reach them so I grabbed my keys and went.

When I picked him up he seemed a bit subdued but otherwise gave me no concern, although he said he hadn't eaten all day and I found that odd.  Once home I sent him to bed and took him drinks and Ibuprofen.  He seemed happy enough, asking could he watch TV in his room as his favourite programme was on.  He spent the evening in bed, with his Dad, sister and I often sitting with him.  When I went to bed (just after midnight) I'd given him more tablets and a drink and told him I'd leave his door open so that he could shout for me if he wanted anything.

"I think he immediately knew what was wrong as he gave Michael an injection and said we should get him to hospital as soon as possible."

I heard him call me at about 6.30am.  When I went to him he said he wanted to go to the toilet but was unable to get out of bed as he still felt unwell.   I called his Dad to help as Michael, although only 14, was 5ft 10ins and rather heavy for me to lift.  When the covers were drawn back, I could see that he had bruising on the tops of his feet which I thought was odd and this started bells ringing.   I rang the doctor and described what was wrong.  The lady who took the call said she'd send someone 'right away' and within 15 minutes we had a doctor at our door.   I think he immediately knew what was wrong as he gave Michael an injection and said we should get him to hospital as soon as possible.  He told us he suspected meningitis but strangely enough it didn't alarm me too much at the time. We attempted to get him out of bed but by this time he was complaining of feeling 'too sore all over' so we called for an ambulance. I also rang a friend to come to our house as Laura was still asleep. The ambulance came quickly and Michael was taken to the children's wing of the local hospital.  I went with him and his Dad followed in the car.

We arrived at approximately 8am and I can remember telling Michael this was where he was born.   He was rushed into a room and I was put in a side room.   From then on things happened fast.  His Dad arrived and a bit later we were told he'd have to be sedated and that we could speak with him for a few moments before that happened.   When we saw him on the bed, he was covered by a purplish rash, which was quite a shock, and yet I still felt no alarm, only relief that he was where I felt he could be helped.   His last words to me before they sedated him was, 'don't worry, Mum'.  He was then transferred to Intensive Care and we were again put in a side room.   At one point a doctor came in a said 'things were serious' and that we were to be prepared for the fact Michael may lose a limb, be deaf or brain damaged.   By then we felt sick with worry.  

At 9.50am, less than two hours from our arrival at the hospital, a nurse and doctor entered the room to tell us, 'we've lost him'.  

I cannot describe the feeling when I heard those words.   I was stunned and felt sick, I couldn't stand.  His Dad however, raged and kicked out at the walls.   It was so distressing.  The anguish and despair we felt grew with the minutes that passed, then we were taken in to see him.   Michael was laid out lifeless on a bed with a nurse sitting by him.  I can remember thinking how swollen his face was and he was quite purple.  But one of the things that sticks with me was how perfect his nails were - I hadn't realised until then that he must have stopped biting them and I hadn't noticed before.

When we left it was with leadened hearts and the sorrowful realisation of 'how do we tell Laura?'   We went home, rang her school and said we'd come in to collect her once we'd made some calls.   Those were dreadful, telling other family and friends the awful news. Word had got round that he had been rushed to hospital and one of his friends rang the house having left school to go to a phone box (kids didn't have mobiles then).   That poor boy went home distressed as did others when they heard.   When we picked up Laura and told her I can't remember much about what was said, only the tightness of her little hand as we left to go home.   

"The loss of a child deprives us of part of our future"

The next week is now a blur and I don't remember the course of events in detail.  Only that grandparents arrived to stay, friends were calling, neighbours too.  Flowers arrived, food appeared.  Lots of activity.   The worst part was wakening each morning with the realisation that it wasn't a dream and that the pain would stay and I'd never see him again.

Life was never the same again.   I'd set the table for four and then remember it was wrong.  One morning I overslept and cried out 'wake up Michael and Laura you'll be late for school'.  I found I couldn't be in silence or close my eyes to rest, I needed to fill my head with music, or read.  Even if I was walking I had to count the cracks on the pavement or systematically count trees or cars, anything to stop my mind from thinking of Michael.  In the beginning, remembering was too painful, but as the years pass I want to think of him more.   For in the beginning your grief is shared but as the years go on you are alone with it and it becomes harder to bring their name into conversation.

I don't know what I would have done without Laura, she was the shining star who kept me out of darkness and still does.  

Michael's death changed us all. The loss of anyone we love is hard to bear, but the loss of a child deprives us of part of our future - for our hopes and dreams go with them. He is thought of every day with much love and pride.  He lives on in me. 

Anne Ord
April 2009