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Mum's quick thinking saved my life -- Claire

RTE star Claire Byrne has revealed how she battled for her life after getting meningitis.

The broadcaster recalls how she received last rites and how her mother kept having to slap her across the face repeatedly to prevent her from losing consciousness while being transferred to a Dublin hospital.

Speaking to the RTE Guide on the eve of Meningitis Awareness Week, Claire spoke of how her mum managed to spot the signs and get the help she needed to save her life.

"I had a dreadful headache and was sent home from my school at lunchtime. I was put to bed by my mother. She had her suspicions that it was much more serious than the flu which was doing the rounds that January. So she phoned the doctor who told her to close the blinds, not let in any light into the bedroom and give me some pain relief.

"The doctor arrived at about seven o'clock and asked me to stand up. I fell. He then realised that it was meningitis and immediately phoned for an ambulance."

Claire, who was living with her family in Mountrath, Co Laois, was rushed to Portlaoise Hospital and given the last rites.

"I can remember seeing the ceiling of the ambulance when I was being taken to hospital. I can remember a doctor asking me to position myself in a certain way because he wanted to do a lumbar puncture. And I remember the last rites experience at Portlaoise. My parents and the priest were beside me. I was aware that oils were being used and prayers were being said: prayers that are usually said when a person is about to die."


Due to her illness, Claire said she wasn't fully aware that she was close to death.

"I don't think I had that level of consciousness as I was pumped full of drugs.

"During the last rites I did see a picture of the family on the wall that didn't exist and I did see a crucifix. Was I hallucinating? Was I having a near-death experience? I just don't know."

Following two weeks of treatment, Claire's condition began to improve slowly but it would be another two years before Claire fully recovered.

Meningitis Awareness Week runs from September 17 to 23. Visit meningitis.org for further information.