I met Tess at university – I was very nervous on my first day, I didn’t know anybody else on my course and one of my biggest worries was settling in somewhere completely new. Tess Hallam was from Southampton and had moved very far away from her family – she was very calm and relaxed and immediately I calmed down in her presence
I had only known Tess for two years but she was one of my best friends. We helped each other with work when we were struggling, had heated debates about our views on different things, shared teaching ideas, listened to each other’s problems, partied together, cried together, laughed together. If I ever needed anything at all, Tess was one of the first people I’d turn to.
Complaining about an earache
One week Tess was complaining about an earache that she’d had for a couple of days. We were a week away from finishing our second year at university and we had been making plans to celebrate the following weekend. Tess’s earache got worse through the week to the point where she had to miss teaching days in school. I was really worried about her but was sure with some antibiotics from the doctor, she’d be fine.
That Sunday, I logged into Facebook to find messages on her page from people saying how much they missed her already and that they were sorry she’d gone. I thought she’d probably gone back home to Southampton. Then I saw the ‘RIP’ messages. It was a massive shock which broke my heart.
Tess was one of the most motivational and inspirational people you could ever dream of meeting. She did anything for anybody – nothing was too much trouble for her. She was generous and kind – even to her last few hours she was giving things to help others.
For example, on her way to the hospital (little did she know it would be her last ever visit) she asked our university chaplain to make sure that her organs were donated if anything ever happened to her, some say she must have known how serious her ‘earache’ actually was. Tess’s generosity saved seven young people’s lives and I know that somewhere in the world, she still lives on through other people.
I count my blessings
It’s been three years since Tess died from meningitis and every day since then I count my blessings. It is so important to look after yourself and take care of your friends. One of the most valuable things you will ever have in life is a group of good friends around you – I didn’t realise this until one of mine was taken away from me. Never take friends for granted and appreciate what they do for you – no matter how big or small their gestures are. You will often have petty fall-outs with your friends and before you know it, you’re all talking to one another again – life really is too short for these fallouts! Love each other and make lots of happy memories together that you can treasure for the rest of your lives
I miss my best friend more every day and I always think of what she’d be doing now if she’d have survived that horrible disease! I always wonder what would have happened if she actually did go to the doctor about that earache when it first started.
Meningitis Now helped me a great deal during my grieving process.
They provided counselling, support and information – not just for me but for everyone at my university. I was and always will be grateful for the support they gave to me and encourage everybody to understand what the disease is and how it affects people.
Tess and I made an A-Z list of ‘things to do before we are thirty’ – I have already ticked off half of that list but have made a promise to myself that the rest of it will, in some way, allow me to raise awareness and funds for the charity.
(Sammy-Jo is now a teacher at Sandwell Academy. This year one of the school houses is supporting Meningitis Now as Sammy nominated us. They’ll be doing some fundraising throughout the year to support our work.)