Macha Ni Bhradaigh shares her heartbreaking story of losing her sister Sadhbh to meningitis.
‘Be assertive because it’s someone’s life’!!!!
“It was Christmas 2009 and on the night of Wednesday the 23rd just before I went to sleep I received a message from my mother saying that my sister was feeling unwell, that she had a slight temperature, we texted back and forth and I said I would phone in the morning.
Sadhbh had left work early on the Wednesday evening complaining of pain and aches and feeling unwell. That night, my parents, in turns, stayed up with Sadhbh monitoring her temperature and making sure the paracetamol was bringing her down, nursing her with wet cloth’s etc. Sadhbh at 18th months old suffered from Pneumococcal meningitis, which she miraculously survived. Therefore my parents were extremely aware and vigilant of any temperatures or illnesses Sadhbh suffered thereafter.
The following morning I received a phone call from Sadhbh, who was crying with the pain in her lower back. She had just left the doctors who diagnosed her as having a virus. Swine flu was rampant at this time, She was told if the anti-inflammatories prescribed did not work within a few hours to phone back.
On leaving work about lunchtime, I rang Sadhbh, who at this time sounded back to her old self, asking me to pick her up credit etc from the shop on my way home.
I arrived home to my sister on the couch, lounging around, that night she slept in her own bed. The next morning, Christmas morning I arrived downstairs to Sadhbh sitting upright on the couch watching TV, I asked how she was feeling and she said her back was fine but her head felt a bit sore and her eye felt a bit ‘funny’, like there was pressure behind it or something. I said she probably was developing a sty as a result of being run down.
After dinner I sat down to watch the soaps, I remember Sadhbh complaining of feeling unwell, her head hurting. We questioned whether going to the Doctors was an option or not, the roads were treacherous. Sadhbh did not feel the need to go, but within a short period of time she began to vomit and my father took her straight into Westdoc. My mother and I stayed at home and we were kept updated by my father. Westdoc’s doctor sent Sadhbh, straight to hospital; he himself questioned possible Meningitis, sending a note along with her. Sadhbh arrived to the hospital around 10pm and was administered Morphine only, they did tests to see if a brain hemorrhage had occurred, but no lumbar puncture which is standard routine for possible meningitis patients… At this point my mother went to the hospital and I stayed at home still unaware, as we all were of how serious the situation was.
I rang my parents and they reassured me that Sadhbh was induced with morphine and awaiting tests. The doctors had just spoke to them and spoke positively about her situation. I, with slight relief, went to sleep with the promise that my parents would phone me promptly when they had more information. While my parents had been reassured by a doctor at 4am, Sadhbh had a seizure whilst in another room with the other doctors. I woke at 7am to no phone call; strangely, I knew straight away that life was about to take a serious turn for the worse. I rang my father a few times, with no answer. My dad then text telling me to come to the ICU straight away.
The rest is vague shots from my memory, a lot of which I was on autopilot. I arrived to the hospital to see my parents as I never seen them before and as I would wish never to again, broken. My sister was in the high dependency unit, hooked up to tubes and machines. Upon seeing her, I knew she was gone from us but it’s hard to believe when your watching someone look as they did asleep. She looked so beautiful, as always, flawless. So hard to believe this was happening to a girl that was so full of life and so much to live for. The day passed with all her friends, family coming in to say goodbye. Doctors spoke to us, then later spoke to us again, as common protocol to assure us of the situation and that she was in fact, brain-dead. We, as a family, with no question, wanted to donate Sadhbh’s organs, and so she did later that night, her liver and two kidneys.
Sadhbh died from pneumococcal meningitis, the same disease she had escaped at 18 months old, again it crept up on her in a vicious sneaky way as Meningitis can. As I have said, it began with mild pain in back, masked by painkillers, by Christmas day it had travelled up to her head, again no severe major pain until the end, no rash, no dislike of bright lights, no obvious alarming symptoms until the end. Of course the time of Sadhbh entering the hospital and being treated is questionable, acting FAST is imperative with a disease like Meningitis where time is most certainly not on your side. Yes, we are not doctors, but we do rely on those who are, and sometimes it is not enough, so therefore, we need to follow our intuition, make the call, insist and demand. Most importantly, ‘be assertive because it’s someone’s life’.