Meningitis Now staff member Clara Wiggins

Kayleigh supported at Family Day after son Tiernan's meningitis death

Clara Wiggins | 25th January 2020

Nearly seven years after she lost son Tiernan to meningitis, Kayleigh Martell and family attended our Family Day at Bristol Zoo

Kayleigh supported at Family Day after son Tiernan's meningitis death

Despite being left “physically and emotionally drained” by the experience it was, according to Kayleigh, a “fantastic day”. And even though they were the only bereaved family there, Kayleigh - who attended with her three daughters Kyla, Jada and Arya, and Brett, the children’s dad - spoke of how much they valued meeting other families who have been affected by meningitis.

Kayleigh said that they had all “thoroughly enjoyed the day”.

The family’s sad story started in March 2013 when Tiernan told his mother he felt hot. “He’d spent that day playing football and getting up to his usual mischief, even picking some daffodils to give me as a present,” said Kayleigh. 

“But taking his temperature that night, I could tell he was coming down with something”.

Kayleigh originally assumed her son had caught chickenpox from his sisters, Kyla (then 8) and Jada (3), so gave him some Calpol and put him to bed. But the following morning she was woken by her two daughters confused and panicking because they couldn’t wake their brother.

“Hurrying into the girls’ bedroom, I felt my heart stop,” said Kayleigh. “Tiernan was lying lifeless in Jada’s bed, his skin blue and covered in a rash”. 

An ambulance was called but when the paramedics arrived at the house Tiernan was pronounced dead. A week later, a post-mortem confirmed he had died from meningococcal septicaemia

Such a bittersweet feeling

We started supporting Kayleigh and her family soon after they lost their son but the Bristol Zoo Family Day was the first time they had attended one of our events together. 

The day included a guided tour of the zoo, a “meet and greet” with some of the animals, face-painting, crafts and other fun.

Kayleigh said, “It was really touching to hear other people’s stories and meet their lovely children, including those who had fought so hard to survive the disease,” she said, adding that the weekend had physically and emotionally drained her. “It was such a bittersweet feeling meeting so many other people that have been affected by meningitis."

“Despite being the only bereaved family on the day, we were warmly welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with families who had survived the disease. Thank you so much for having me!”

Meningitis Now’s Community Support Officer for the South West, Dawn McNiff, said, “Although fewer attend, we’re always so pleased to welcome bereaved families to our Family Days."

“It was great to see Kayleigh and family throw themselves into the day with such enthusiasm – they seemed to get so much out of it. What a lovely family!”

To find out more about the support we offer bereaved families, including Family Days, visit our Get Support pages.

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