'I was afraid I couldn't love my new baby after losing Lola Jane to meningitis'
Ruth Melling became a mother to a little boy only 13 months after losing her beautiful baby girl to meningitis, but she was terrified she couldn't love again.
The mother-of-three from Corbally, Co Limerick, is about to mark the second anniversary of losing her daughter, 17-month-old Lola Jane Nagle, on April 15, 2015.
Despite her devastation, Ruth had to overcome the grief of losing a baby to open her heart to love again when her baby boy Scott was born last May.
"It's coming up to the second anniversary of losing Lola Jane and it feels like yesterday really, but I take it day by day," Ruth said.
"When I was expecting Scott, I was really afraid I couldn't love him like I'd loved his sister, but once I saw him I fell for him.
"He's brought a lot of joy to my family.
"I don't know if he helped me heal, but he definitely gave me back a sense of purpose and a reason to keep going."
The pain Ruth still carries is obvious as she speaks of the day she last saw Lola Jane.
She is also mother to Leah (18) and Holly (10), and as a family they have been there for each other, remembering the special little girl together.
The family also attended counselling, which helped them deal with the grief of losing a child, thanks to charity Act for Meningitis.
"I don't remember a whole lot about the day Lola Jane died," Ruth said.
"I suppose it was the shock. A lot of it happened so quickly.
"I can still hear her breathing when I'm trying to go to sleep.
"I can still see the way she was looking at me from the rear view mirror on the way to hospital, it's like she was trying to tell me something was wrong."
On the night of April 14, 2015, Lola Jane woke up with a temperature. She was restless and breathing strangely, but she wasn't crying.
Ruth couldn't get her daughter's temperature down and, after a restless night, she took her to the doctor the next day.
By 10am the child had purple marks on her neck, her breathing was more laboured and Ruth thought she had chickenpox.
By the time Lola Jane was seen by a doctor, it was clear she had contracted meningitis and the GP called an ambulance.
Ruth held her beloved daughter one last time before she was rushed away by paramedics. Lola Jane was dead within two hours.
The tot died after contracting meningitis B, and the fact she had no immediately visible symptoms is something that still terrifies Ruth.
Meningitis can be hard to recognise. Early signs are often similar to flu.
The first signs are usually fever, vomiting, a severe headache and feeling unwell. More specific symptoms include neck stiffness, a dislike of bright lights, confusion or seizures.
Ruth is now urging other parents to take note of their "gut instinct" because the symptoms are often not clear.
"I'd say to parents, don't be afraid of taking your child to hospital, just do it if you feel there's something wrong," she said.
"I know parents don't want to be seen as time-wasters, but you have to listen to your instinct.
"My baby girl was 'Lola Lashes' because she had beautiful long eyelashes.
"She was a very healthy baby and always happy bouncing round like a little ballerina. I would have expected signs that she had meningitis, but really the rash was the last thing that happened before Lola Jane passed away."
While the death of little Lola Jane has been extremely difficult for Ruth and her heartbroken family, she said the little girl's memory will live on.
"The girls find it difficult to talk about her because it's still very painful, but there are photos all round the house of her. Lola Jane will always be a part of our family," she said.
World Meningitis Day takes place on April 24.
Act for Meningitis is encouraging people to download the meningitis awareness card.
Go to actformeningitis.ie for more information or log on to www.meningitis.org or call the freephone on: 1800 41 33 44