Helen L's story

1st May 2001

From the age of 14, Helen had always wanted to become a nursery nurse and worked hard to secure her qualifications. She qualified in January 2001 but in May of that year, Helen called her parents to say that she was feeling unwell 

Helen-L

Her father Terry made her an appointment with the local doctor who diagnosed her as having a virus and gave her a course of antibiotics.

That afternoon, Helen's sickness continued and she complained of feeling very cold, yet she was feverish. The family put her to bed and after a restless night, Helen's mum, Sue, woke up at 3am and checked on her daughter to find she was breathless and gasping for air.

The Laings called an ambulance straightaway but by the time Helen had arrived at hospital, the family noticed a rash on her body. The doctors at the hospital diagnosed meningitis immediately. Helen's older brother Andrew, from Eastbourne, drove to the hospital straight away and the family remained by her bedside. Helen was put on a life support machine in the early hours of Thursday morning and tragically died of a heart attack just five days later.

A letter from Steve

Sue said: "Steve Dayman, who lost his son Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 1982, sent us a letter with his condolences and after he came to see us, we decided to get involved with raising awareness about meningitis."

Every year, the family organise a five mile sponsored walk in aid of Meningitis Now called 'Helen's Walk', which now attracts around 250 people. The family has raised around £71,000 since 2001.

"The walk is in memory of Helen, and is an opportunity for us to remember her and make a difference. Lots of parents who have lost their children through a variety of circumstances come on this walk too," said Sue.

Some of the young children whom Helen used to look after that now attend Rose Hill and Holy Trinity schools in Hartburn, participate in the fundraising event, which takes about three hours to complete and takes in the stunning scenery around Osmotherly in North Yorkshire.

Terry and Sue also manage 48 collection boxes which are positioned in shops and attractions in their local area.

Remembering Helen

Sue said: "We're pleased that Helen achieved her ambition of becoming a Nursery Nurse by the time she died, it was her dream and her goal. Nothing prepares you for the death of your own child from which you never recover, but the fundraising is a positive way of remembering her."

The Laings have a special corner of the garden devoted to Helen. "She's with us here at home and her ashes casket is buried in the garden," said Sue.

"You always think something like this will never happen to you or your family, but the sad thing is, it can and does. Whatever anyone can do to help eradicate this terrible disease, be it making a donation or taking part in a fundraising event, takes us one step closer to finding a vaccine.”

  • Tess

    Tess's story

    Then I saw the 'RIP' messages. It was a massive shock which broke my heart

  • Sarah

    Sarah's story

    I looked at the meningitis website for the symptoms. I still don't know why I did that - just something told me to do it

  • Gillian

    Gillian's story

    We have had to learn to cope with life without Gillian and our eagerly awaited Grace

  • Lisa Richardson

    Lisa R's story

    Our hearts were broken, life was never going to be the same again for us, our family is broken