MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 19-Dec-17 10:00:04

Guest post: “Christmas is often peak season for meningitis and septicaemia - I found out the hard way”

This year, Mumsnet’s Christmas appeal is raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation. Their ambassador Dianne Spalding shares her story about how meningitis struck her family at Christmas.

Dianne Spalding

Meningitis Research Foundation

Posted on: Tue 19-Dec-17 10:00:04


Lead photo

Ours was a sudden loss with no warning.

In three minutes on 23 December 2014, my life changed forever.

My husband John was a GP and on Monday 22nd December he walked through the door as his normal, happy and slightly over the top self. We ate tea and wrapped our boys’ Christmas presents.

We went to bed at around 11pm. At 3am he woke me and said he had a temperature and felt as if he had a virus. I gave him paracetamol and ibuprofen and he went back to sleep.

At 7am he woke with a fever and rigors (which wasn’t unusual for him due to his eczema) and said he felt sick. I phoned his Practice Manager to say he wouldn’t be in. He never missed work and he said down the phone “I’ll be in later.”

I wasn't at work that day and went out to get Christmas veg. I came back at 10am and he was sleeping. He was breathing normally and looked peaceful, but I now realise he must have been in a deep unconscious sleep.

At about midday I heard some movement upstairs so I went to check on him with my youngest, Tim. John was sat up on the bed and he just said, “call an ambulance” and then fell back. Over the phone the operator told me to get him on the floor and start CPR, which we did. We carried on with the resuscitation until the ambulance arrived but we knew after three minutes that he had died.

A week later it was found that John had died from meningococcal W septicaemia (MenW).

John, despite the long hours he worked, was a brilliant involved Dad. He was school governor, coached Richard’s rugby team and ran the line at the boys' football matches.

The symptoms are so subtle, the only way to stop it is through vaccination.

Ours was a sudden loss with no warning and, although he knew how much we loved him, not having that chance to tell him one last time was so hard. Phil, Rich and Tim miss him so much but I am so proud of the way they have dealt with their loss.

There’s a common misconception that only babies are affected by meningitis, and while babies, young children and teenagers are at the highest risk, all too often adults get it too.

I’m now an Ambassador for the charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), helping raise awareness of this deadly disease in the hope that others don’t have to go through what we have.

The MenW strain is particularly deadly and cases have been nearly doubling each year since 2009. What’s most worrying is that MenW doesn’t always present with the normal symptoms. John didn’t get a rash. He really just seemed to have flu. The symptoms are so subtle, the only way to stop it is through vaccination.

The MenACWY vaccine helps prevent four types of meningitis and septicaemia – Men A, C, W and Y. Most 14 – 20 year olds and first year university students aged under 25 are now eligible for this free life-saving vaccine.

You may wonder why this age group is vaccinated. It’s because the bacteria that can cause meningitis are most commonly found living harmlessly in the nose and throats of teenagers and can be passed on to others. If everyone who is entitled to the vaccine free gets it, this will not only protect them but over a few years, it will also help protect everyone else too because there will be less of the bacteria around to spread.

If you’re a parent of a teenager or university student, please visit this link and book them in for the vaccine if they are eligible. You never know whose life you might be saving.

The bottom line is, meningitis and septicaemia can kill quickly, and many survivors are left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness or hearing loss.

It’s fantastic that the Mumsnet Christmas appeal is raising funds for MRF. Your support will go directly into MRF’s work in awareness, research and supporting people; helping to defeat this heart-breaking disease and provide a better life for those living with the after-effects.

This Christmas Mumsnet raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation to help defeat meningitis, in honour of CatThiefKeith. Mumsnet will be matchfunding donations made up to £10,000, so please, click here to donate anything you can spare.

By Dianne Spalding

Twitter: @M_R_F

Friolero Tue 19-Dec-17 12:55:00

Thank you for sharing this thanks
I have just donated x

madcatwoman61 Tue 19-Dec-17 14:08:13

Thank you for pointing out that adults also die from meningitis- my husband died just after Christmas at the age of 44, 16 years ago, leaving our 4 children without a father

Dozer Tue 19-Dec-17 15:58:14

Very sorry about your husband. Thank you very much for your post.

MollyHuaCha Tue 19-Dec-17 16:11:16

Heartbreaking. Thank you for posting this. It's good to help understanding of this condition.

I hope you have lots of happy memories of your lovely husband.

ItsBeginingToLookAlotLikeChris Tue 19-Dec-17 16:11:29

thanks for this but where do adults who have to pay get vaccinated?

ItsBeginingToLookAlotLikeChris Tue 19-Dec-17 16:15:27

just answered my own queston

ADULTS £70 for the injection at private health clinics.


girlwhowearsglasses Tue 19-Dec-17 17:54:29

Thanks for this. I am lucky enough to have survived this as a student of 21. Only by pure chance did the locum GP sense the seriousness over the phone and met us at the seurgery to give me a penicillin injection en route to A&E, calling them from the surgery and sending us in the car because ‘no time for an ambulance’ . Life saved.

Awareness is all!

greathat Tue 19-Dec-17 17:58:43

Thank you for sharing this. As a sixth form teacher I will pass this on

Esker Tue 19-Dec-17 18:04:00

I am so sorry for your loss flowers And thank you for your work to spread awareness. Like a previous poster I also work at a sixth form so will do my best to raise awareness.

CactusCactusCactus Tue 19-Dec-17 18:47:24

Thank you for your educational post, and so sorry for your loss. thanks

Is it worth getting the vaccine as an adult?

Polyanthus Tue 19-Dec-17 19:38:44

Thank you so much for this post. I will follow up to check that my teenagers have had this vaccine (pretty sure they have but I will double check).

Jakeyboy1 Tue 19-Dec-17 19:44:14

So sad and shocking. Do children get vaccinated against these strains in the schedule? There are so many now I get so confused? If not can they get it privately or do you have to be older?

FinnegansCake Tue 19-Dec-17 20:00:02

Thank you for this post, I am so sorry to hear you lost your wonderful husband.

A dear friend of mine died of meningitis, contracted just after Christmas eighteen years ago at the age of fifty. It was a terrible shock to all who knew and loved her.

SaneAsABoxOfFrogs Tue 19-Dec-17 20:19:45

Thank you for sharing this, and I'm sorry for your loss flowers. Eerily similar to my own experience, though from a different perspective. I was 12 when my 52 year old dad died suddenly of meningococcal septicemia. It can take anyone of any age.

iwantavuvezela Tue 19-Dec-17 21:52:18

Thank you for sharing your story. I have just donated to the fund for this.
I will look for into vaccinations for our family.

AnotherDunroamin Tue 19-Dec-17 22:08:59

Thank you for sharing your story Dianne. I'm so sorry for your loss flowers

There is one thing in the story that confused me, and I wonder if it's a typo. It's the connection between fever/rigours and nd eczema...? These aren't normal eczema symptoms AFAIK. I'm not just being needlessly pedantic - as I said I suspect it's an error in transcription - but I'm sure the last thing anyone wants is for someone to witness these potentially serious symptoms and think "oh it's probably their eczema flaring up"!

sourpatchkid Tue 19-Dec-17 22:35:33

Adult vaccination is £50 at Superdrug ... I'm considering it

I'm so sorry for your loss OP

Modestine Tue 19-Dec-17 22:58:55

In common with AnotherDunroamin, I wondered what "rigours" means, please?

Modestine Wed 20-Dec-17 00:14:27

I'm so very sorry for your loss. thanks

NoMudNoLotus Wed 20-Dec-17 01:27:11

Thankyou so much for sharing this .

I am a nurse manager and will endeavour to raise awareness.

I hope you and your boys are able to find comfort in each other .

Jessica136 Wed 20-Dec-17 01:49:41

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americanlife Wed 20-Dec-17 02:38:45

I am so sorry you and your family have had to go through this.Thank you for making this stand to prevent others going through the same heart ache.

bigsexywalker3 Wed 20-Dec-17 03:17:43

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BeingATwatItsABingThing Wed 20-Dec-17 06:18:59

So if my DD is 4, I need to wait for this vaccine until she is Y9? Or can she get it now?

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