My name is Emma Ryan, I was 16 years of age and in transition year at Summerhill College in Athlone in April 2007, the worst month of my life.
It was the week after the tragic death of my cousin Brian Keogh, who had died on 13th April 2007 from meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia. To be honest this was the first time in my life I had heard of meningitis. It had never affected my life in any way and I most definitely did not know how fatal it could be.
A week after Brian died I developed a sore throat. But for me this was not unusual, as I suffered from sore throats regularly and it was understandable as I had been through a very traumatic week.
On 19th April I was feeling fine, I still had my slight sore throat but otherwise was OK. My friend called to see me that evening as I was preparing to return to school after Brian's death. I went to bed early but it was just one of those nights when I could not fall asleep. At about 3am I awoke and found myself shaking uncontrollably. I was shaking with the cold but yet when my mam came in to me I appeared to be running a temperature. I asked my mam to bring more bedclothes as I felt so cold. She took me into her bed and gave me Panadol for my temperature. She checked my body for any rash every hour as everyone was on high alert after what had happened to Brian.
The morning of 20th April my mother rang the doctor to make an appointment and I was due to see her at 3pm that afternoon. At about 12pm I felt a sudden surge of sickness in my stomach. I called my mother and she immediately checked my body for any sign of rash. She noticed tiny red pinpricks all over my back and on my hands.
She asked my Dad to phone the casualty department in our local hospital, Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, to tell them we were on our way and give them details of my symptoms and that I was a cousin to Brian. It was in this casualty department that Brian had passed away a week previously. I know that only for what happened to Brian we would not have noticed the symptoms and would not have taken immediate action.
We reached the hospital in about 20 minutes and I still did not think that I had meningitis. The casualty department were waiting for us and they too were on high alert after the death of Brian, and also another local boy who had been admitted for meningitis about a month prior. Thinking about it now this was the scariest experience of my life.
I was given an antibiotic immediately and while I was still in casualty large red pinpricks started to appear on the back of my hands. I was then transferred to a ward and the doctor carried out a lumbar puncture as they still were not sure if it was meningitis. I was then transferred to the Intensive care unit. For the rest of the day and that night they continued to give me antibiotics. I was feeling fine, was eating OK, but throughout the following day and evening more pinpricks appeared on my hands and feet.