A 17-year-old girl who was sent home sick from school sadly passed away the next day from meningococcal meningitis type W, after suffering from ‘hidden symptoms’ of the condition.
Mum Kym Lockett, from Halifax, said of her heartbreaking loss: ‘In October 2015, my 17-year-old daughter Penny was sent home early from school one Thursday.
‘She was ill with what seemed to be a regular sickness and diarrhoea bug and had a temperature.
The 48-year old knew that other children in the area were suffering with sickness and diarrhoea, so wasn’t too worried. She went on to explain how they were trying to keep her temperature down with paracetamol but Penny continued to be ill through the night and into the next morning.
‘I did check for the rash that is commonly associated with meningitis, but there was nothing to be seen,’ said the mum.
‘I phoned the doctor the next day and they reassured me that we were doing all the right things based on her symptoms.’
Penny then had a bath, but when she got out she slumped on the floor.
‘I sat her up and she had the tiniest absence which I recognised was a small seizure. This really bothered me and I phoned 111,’ Kym continued.
While she was on the phone, Kym noticed that her daughter’s breathing became shallow and she stopped responding.
The operator sent an ambulance and to take them to hospital, where both the paramedics and the doctors in hospital asked lots of questions, such as whether Penny had taken anything, and what she had eaten.
‘They were working hard to try to eliminate lots of things but it wasn’t clear what was wrong and nothing they did seemed to make any difference,’ she added.
Penny was then transferred to Intensive Care but the doctors explained to Kym and her husband that things weren’t getting any better, and before they realised it Penny had passed away.
‘Penny was gone by 10pm on Friday night,’ Kym said. ‘She was 17 years old. It all happened so quickly.’
The grieving parents later learned that Penny had died from meningococcal meningitis type W.
This disease hides behind symptoms that you’d get with common everyday illnesses, which makes it so hard for doctors to know when it’s something more dangerous.
Kym now wants everyone to know that the MenACWY vaccine is available now for young people to prevent the MenW type of meningitis.
‘The thing that frustrates me is that uptake of this vaccine has been low among people who are Penny’s age,’ she admitted.
‘This seems staggering to me. People don’t appreciate what this disease can do if they haven’t been through it. It’s so quick to get the vaccine and can give that peace of mind.’
According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, teenagers are a high risk age group for meningitis and septicaemia and university freshers are particularly at risk because they mix with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria.
New research published during National Meningitis Awareness Week, 18-24 September 2017, shows that only 33% of UK teenagers surveyed (aged 14-18) think vaccines are needed at school or university, despite an urgent campaign to vaccinate teenagers to protect them against the deadly MenW strain of meningitis.
Spot the symptoms
Meningitis and septicaemia can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Early symptoms include:
Headache Vomiting Limb pain
Fever Cold hands and feet
Everyone should be alert to the symptoms and should not wait for a rash or neck stiffness to develop before seeking medical attention urgently.
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF said: ‘We’re very grateful to Kym for bravely sharing her story to raise awareness during Meningitis Awareness Week. By getting the free meningitis vaccine, young people are not only protecting themselves from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread.’