Heartbroken parents Ann Marie and Stuart, and sister Zoë from Kinross in Scotland, tell us here how their lives changed in the blink of an eye and will never be the same again.
“We were on holiday in France in July 2019. Eilidh was up in the night, disoriented and very hot, but as the temperature was in the mid 30º Centigrade, we initially thought she might have mild heatstroke.
“We gave her Calpol and she slept better and was back to being her cheeky self in the morning. Eilidh ate breakfast, played some cards and ate lunch. She complained a bit of a sore hip, but after I massaged it, she felt better – we thought it was growing pains at the time as she had had a recent growth spurt, and she wasn't in agonising pain.
“We went to the grocery store after lunch, and she didn't even want to walk around. This was the first time I genuinely felt that something wasn't right.
Headed to the local hospital
“We got Eilidh an isotonic drink and went back to the holiday home. She immediately brought that back up, and we headed to the local cottage hospital's A&E.
“They triaged her within 25 minutes (I think also suspecting sunstroke). Her fever was 40ºC. The A&E doctor did check her neck almost immediately, but she passed that test and was communicative and responsive.
“About an hour later, she indicated that she needed the loo, but by the time the nurse came in and put her paracetamol drip on a mobile stand, she couldn't remember that she'd asked for the loo. When I tried to get her out of bed, she couldn't stand. The doctor was walking by and saw that and immediately came back and tested her neck again, and she failed the test.
“They started antibiotics immediately while prepping for the spinal tap, and also did a CT scan.
“At that point, they were trying to find her an ICU bed at a nearby hospital and she started seizing, so they had to sedate her and intubate. Within an hour or so, they had secured a bed at a regional trauma centre, and she was airlifted there.
“We had to drive the three hours, and by the time we arrived, she had experienced a cerebral edema, her pupils were blown, and she was on life support. From the time she first complained of a sore hip to the time she experienced the edema was around 12 hours.
“We were able to spend the rest of the night in the hospital, and she had another CT scan at noon the next day, after which she was declared brain dead.
“We decided to donate her viable organs, and her surgery was done the day after. Working through the international paperwork and repatriation process took another four days.
“Our lives changed in the blink of an eye and will never be the same again. We will forever be without our youngest daughter, which is devastating for all of us.
“Given her age, I understand why she had not been offered the MenACWY vaccine from a public health standpoint, but I so wish she had been.
“Meningitis Now have been a real support through their home visits and the Facebook group for bereaved relatives.
"In particular, Alison has been lovely, and has genuinely made me feel that she is looking out for us, even when the rest of the world seems to have moved on. She has been wonderful in checking in on us, providing information and making me aware of various therapy opportunities in our area.
“It was very comforting to know that someone else was looking out for us at a time when it was easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated.”
The family have kindly shared their story to support our Ribbon Appeal 2021, launching on 1 November 2021.