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Rebecca L's story

14th March 2019

After losing their 48-year-old mother Amanda suddenly and unexpectedly to meningitis in April 2018, Rebecca and her sister Jessica have been able to draw on support from Meningitis Now. Rebecca, from Bathgate in West Lothian, tells their sad story

Rebecca L's story

“On 25 March 2018 our nightmare began: Mum came down with a cold and a sore throat, although it was just a typical cold.

Me and Mum didn’t see each other on a daily basis but we called each other several times a day. As my sister Jessica was in France we spoke more often.

“The weekend of 30 March 2018, me and my daughters went down to Mum's house to have a “girly night”. By this point me and Mum were both choked up with the cold, but it didn’t stop us making memories - including Mum doing the floss dance with the girls.

“We met up again the day after to meet my sister at the airport and to go for a meal. Then it was back to the normal routine of school run and work for the rest of the week. My sister was only back for two days and then she was going on a girls’ holiday, so me and Mum spoke all week - making plans for the weekend, arranging holidays etc.

“Friday 6 April came and it was just a normal day. We all had a group chat on Facetime. Jessica was making us jealous by showing the sunshine and the pool; in the meantime Mum had been at work and said she felt rubbish but was going to Boots and then heading home. Nothing went right that day from then on.

“I normally phoned Mum before I started work. But that day I was running late so I waited until my break and tried to call her at 5.30pm. There was no answer. I assumed she was at work as she had several jobs so I kept trying to call when I got the chance but still no answer.

“At 10pm that night I finished work and called her several times with no answer. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right. Me and Mum finished at the same time every night and we would always phone each other until we both knew we were in the house safely. I phoned my partner and told him to get him and the girls ready because something wasn’t right with my mum.

No answer

“We went down to her house and realised I didn’t have a key, the door was locked and there was no answer. I then managed to get in touch with my sister to track her phone which was showing it was in the house.

“I thought she had accidentally left her phone in the house, which is unusual, so we went down to her work and searched the route she would take home, even stopping the bus driver coming back from Edinburgh to see if she got on the bus at Linlithgow. By this point we were panicking – we knew something had happened.

“My first thoughts were she's in trouble or she's gone missing. We went back home, and I found her key. Once back at Mum’s house, before unlocking the door my heart was racing. I unlocked the door and ran up the stairs shouting for my mum.

“I could hear the cats meowing.

“I checked each room while shouting for her and when I found her on the living room floor I checked if she was breathing and phoned 999 straight away. I started CPR until the paramedics came. It was too late to save her.

“I couldn’t cry, I was in so much shock. I didn’t have anyone - it was just me as my sister was 1,000 miles away and my dad had sadly passed away suddenly 18 months before Mum. After answering the questions for the paramedics I had to make the dreaded phone call to my sister. As soon as she answered I didn’t have to say the words she already knew in her heart.

“I felt so helpless - she was miles away and we both had no one to support us. She is my little sister, she needed me and there was nothing we could do.

Emotions all over the place

“As it was a sudden death, the police had to come out. My head and emotions were all over the place. It was horrible getting questioned over my own mum’s death. I then had to wait for the undertaker to pick Mum up.

“We were promised we would see our mum again so that we could both say our goodbyes. The next morning, we managed to get a flight booked for my sister to come home, but that wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning. I then had to make all the heart-breaking phone calls to friends and family who were all shocked and very upset. Finally, after it feeling like days had passed I had my sister back with me.

“In the first few days we had a lot of visitors, messages and phone calls. On Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from an advanced health protection nurse who said that there was a high possibility that Mum had meningitis. I couldn’t stop shaking; I was so upset and scared as I was still ill with the same symptoms Mum had.

“The man was asking lots of questions such as how we were all feeling, who had had close contact with Mum that week. I kept asking him if I was next. Luckily our GP practice was brilliant and had us in straight away, checked us over and gave us antibiotics to take in case we were carrying the disease.

“I was still petrified of dying. That night I wrote out my funeral plan and letters to both of my daughters. I couldn’t sleep all night - my anxiety was through the roof and I was waking everyone up every hour to check temperatures etc.

“This went on for several weeks. I couldn't settle down, wee things would set me off such as having a necklace on as I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was a horrible experience and it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. In those three weeks we all ended up with the same symptoms and the girls came out in rashes. Luckily the NHS24 and our GP surgery were very understanding and checked us out.

Possibly meningitis

“A week on from Mum’s death we finally got the phone call we had been waiting for from the pathologist. It wasn’t what we suspected as we were then told it would take up to 12 weeks for results to come back from the post mortem, but it was still possibly meningitis. Because of this we weren't allowed to go see Mum again, which really hurt as we didn’t get the chance to say what we wanted.

“We were allowed to go ahead with the funeral, which was another stressful time due to finances. Luckily the community of Linlithgow, Mum’s work, family and our friends helped us so much by setting up a Just Giving page. We reached our target within 24 hours as Mum knew loads of people and made a massive impact on their daily lives.

“Greggs and the Burgh Halls in Linlithgow supplied food and hall hire for free of charge. The help we had was unbelievable. We couldn’t have given our mum the send-off she deserved without their help. Mum was very well known and well loved by everyone she met, she will always be remembered.

“Weeks became months after losing our mum. When we finally got the results back to say Mum had meningitis streptococcus pneumonia we felt some kind of closure from the confirmation. It has been a really difficult couple of years for me, my sister and my daughters living our lives at such a young age without our parents or grandparents and now we are trying to rebuild our lives.

“We didn’t find out about Meningitis Now until a few months after Mum had died but they have been a great support and now all we want to do is raise awareness of this disease. Most people I talk to think it starts with a rash but it is not always the case, Mum didn’t get a rash at all. We would encourage people to learn the symptoms and please get checked if you are in doubt - it could save a life.”