My daughter, Kate, was 31 years old in October 1995, and a third year mature student at Reading University studying for her degree.
My husband Ken and I were looking after her 10-year-old son Aaron that weekend while she was studying. Ken thought she did not look well when we picked Aaron up but she said she was OK and and when she phoned on the Sunday morning she did not say anything was amiss.
Just before we were leaving to pick up Aaron from school on the Monday, Kate phoned and said she had a headache and could we bring painkillers. Ken said she sounded awful. We picked Aaron up and luckily, for the first time ever, he had a door key with him as the sight that met us was unforgettable.
Although she was upstairs in bed and in considerable pain she had been really ill downstairs. Ken stayed downstairs to clean up. She said she had the flu, and Aaron helped me find the doctors' telephone number and it was arranged to take her there before surgery started. She was unable to dress herself, and, as I helped, I noticed deep red blotches all over her body apart from her face, and I had no idea at all what was wrong.
We struggled to get her down the stairs and into the car and I went into the surgery with her. The GP took her hand to take her pulse and immediately noticed the blotches, and he then asked me to get her onto the couch. He phoned for an ambulance and also a local hospital for a bed and said it was meningitis. She could not swallow so I moistened her lips with water, and at that time I thought she would be fine after two weeks in hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital she was taken into a room on her own and that was the last time we saw her conscious. We were advised to go home and wait. We later got a call from the nurse looking after her to say Kate had suffered a heart attack and lines were being put into her, before being transferred to a larger hospital with an IC unit. She arrived a couple of hours later and was in a coma and wired up to all the machines imaginable. During that first night her kidneys failed and she developed pneumonia. We had phoned family members and the nursing staff were very good at letting us all know how she was and when the next phase developed. They informed us that Kate had contracted meningococcal septicaemia and bacterial meningitis.
We all took turns sitting with her and talking with her and telling her to fight this awful disease.