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Rita and Nancy's story

25th August 2019

It was September 2016 and Rachael Holgate from Darlington should have been celebrating the birth of her new twin girls. Instead, she had an agonising wait to see if the girls would pull through after being diagnosed with viral meningitis

Rita and Nancy's story

Rachael, who is training to take part in the Great North Run for Meningitis Now, tells her story.

“I always thought that being pregnant with twins when I had a one year old was going to be the toughest part of life and that the rest would just be logistics - when to potty train everyone, twin tantrums with a pre-schooler, sibling rivalry..."

“I never expected the emotional battle of having both twins in PICU fighting for their life side by side at 4 days old from a high temperature."

“We brought our twinnies home after routine antibiotics had been given to them due to my own case of septicaemia. They were home - their natural birth had been a blessing and here they were - totally perfect and not so tiny at 6.4lb each. Until a midwife came over and advised Nancy wasn't just warm but burning a 38.3 temperature. We went straight to the children's day ward and after she was stripped down they asked if her skin was always this mottled and moments later in my husband's arms she stopped breathing."

“From here on in she fought a battle at our local hospital diagnosed with meningitis and septicaemia. There was this brief moment two days later where it seemed as though she was stabilising with the antibiotics – but joy was short lasting as very quickly she deteriorated and was taken to Newcastle RVI. On that very day I held her twin sister Rita, sobbing, knowing maternally that something wasn't quite right with Rita. After making a nurse take her temperature she too was presenting with 38.3 and the next day made her own way to lay side by side with Nancy fighting meningitis."

Remind us of how lucky we are

“The things we saw them go through will never leave our memories - the scars on the hands from so many transfusions and medications will always remind us. But their faces and their smiles will always remind us of how lucky we are."

“Rita and Nancy slowly came back to us, bit by bit and one before the other until they were home together, with us. We will always be scared by what could have happened. But today we have two wonderful, bright, almost three-year-old twins who although battle speech problems are walking, laughing, brilliant little ladies."

“We spend a lot of time in hospital and with various therapists and I have also had to have much counselling following what happened. I can only thank organisations like Meningitis Now for challenging this disease and all the after-effects families are left with.”