'He fell asleep and just didn’t wake up again'- Irish couple who lost their son (21) to deadly meningitis
An Antrim couple who lost their youngest son to deadly meningitis while he was studying in Sunderland University have said the pain of losing him will "never go away".
Ann McKee (61) and her husband Samuel (63) received the tragic news that their son Christopher (21) had died in his student apartment three days after he told his mother in a phone call that he was feeling unwell.
After his death in 2011, it emerged that the young sports journalism student had died of meningitus.
"Six years ago he phoned me one Thursday evening and told me he was very sick," said Ann, who works part-time in insurance.
"He told me it was just a bug or the flu and not to worry, but as a mum, I checked in on him again about half an hour later.
"He said he felt terrible and was going to go to bed. I told him to look after himself and get some painkillers. That is the last time I ever spoke to my son.
"The next day I was in Portrush with friends and I tried to call him but he wasn’t answering his phone.
"I thought he must be sleeping but I kept trying. I also phoned home and got Lyndsay, my daughter, to try from home as I had bad service.
"Lyndsay couldn’t get him either and by Saturday morning, when we hadn’t heard anything, I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t like Christopher not to phone to say he was okay and not to worry," she said.
After attempts to get in touch with Christopher, the worried mum received a phone call from a paramedic, who gave her the tragic news that her son had died.
"Next thing I got a call from Christopher’s phone to say: 'Is this Christopher McKee’s mum. This is a paramedic I am with your son and he is dead.'
"I was standing in the middle of a street in Portrush and I couldn’t take in what I was hearing. I rang my husband and told him about the phone call and he rang the police, but they couldn’t tell him anything.
"I know the way the paramedic did it was probably wrong and it was a terrible shock, but maybe he just thought that as his mum I needed to know. And I did," she said.
Christopher's housemates had checked up on him on Friday night after they did not hear from him, however he was still sleeping in the same position on Saturday and they realised he had died.
"Apparently at 3pm on Friday he told his housemates he was going to bed as he had a headache. The next day he was dead.
"We were told he fell asleep and just didn’t wake up again. It was 10 days before we got Christopher home and they were the longest of our lives. We were just in limbo waiting to have our son home so we could say goodbye.
"Finally, it was confirmed that he died from meningitis."
Ann and Samuel, who have two other children Leslie (33) and Lyndsay (30) said the pain of losing their youngest son will be a pain they will hold on to forever.
"I can’t describe the pain of losing Christopher — and it never goes away. But my faith pulls me through. I know God had a plan for Christopher and his days were numbered — that helps me. Without my faith I couldn’t cope, but it doesn’t make the pain any easier.
"I contacted the Meningitis Research Foundation as soon as we found out what it was. I want to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms as well as letting people know that meningitis isn’t just an illness for children, it is common in students too. I never knew this and don’t think many people do," she said.
Warning signs to look out for
Fever, cold hands and feet, vomiting, drowsy, difficult to wake
Confusion and irritability
Severe muscle pain, pale, blotchy skin. Spots/rash
Severe headache, stiff neck, dislike bright lights
For more information on Meningitis please visit the Meningitis Research Foundation at www.meningitis.org