Meningitis in your words

Victoria MacDonald's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Husband or Wife
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Victoria MacDonald

It was Christmas Day and whilst he was peeling vegetables for the dinner, Andrew said he wasn't feeling too well so just after midday he took himself for a lie down. I, our two year old son and Andrew's mother and sister carried on with the day but decided to leave the presents until Andrew was feeling better. 

Towards the early evening Andrew had a temperature and was vomiting; we had been out and about a lot the previous day and we all assumed he had picked up a ‘bug’. After all Andrew was 47, went to the gym, didn't smoke, wasn't overweight so meningitis was the last thing on my mind. However, the previous Christmas Andrew had suffered glandular fever so his immune system was low. 

Victoria says: "After a very restless night I called NHS Direct who told me to look for a rash – I couldn't find one, but they recommended I call a doctor anyway."

The doctor was very prompt and came to check him out; she reported there was a lot of winter vomiting virus about and it was believed he had picked this up. He was to keep his fluids up and take paracetamol, but we were to stay in touch. 

Andrew slept most of Boxing Day and despite the fever and vomiting he was starting to look better. The doctor called that night and as he was sitting up in bed it was felt the worst had passed. However he was confused and couldn’t quite remember things and told me that he ached all over. 

At six the next morning Andrew collapsed and was fitting; his body was covered in a blotchy, deep red rash. As I dialled 999 he stopped breathing and I began CPR. Sadly he was announced dead at 8am that morning. 

It took a long time to get the cause of death but it was finally confirmed as pneumococcal bacteria resulting in septicaemia, causing complete organ failure. I wish I had been aware that glandular fever could put Andrew at risk and that no rash does not mean it is not meningitis or septicaemia. 

I came to MRF in a quest to find out more and to understand what happened. I need to be able to explain to my son Alastair, now 11, (pictured) what happened and why. I was very angry that I hadn't thought of meningitis – my mother had contracted it as a baby and had lost her hearing as result, but I didn't think it would happen to a man in the prime of his life. 

I am now planning to run my first 10K in September for the organisation and I use twitter and my blog to raise awareness.

Victoria MacDonald
May 2011