Eric Higgins

Pneumococcal meningitis at 58

Pneumococcal meningitis

My name is Lesley Grugel and I lost my dad Eric Higgins to pneumococcal meningitis on 22nd December 2008. He was 58.

It was a few days before Christmas and I had been doing my usual Christmas shopping for my dad, as daughters do; he always used to give me some money in secret to get mum a present. I had only seen him on Wednesday. We were bundling the presents into his wardrobe so mum couldn't see them - that was five days before we lost him.

My dad was active, fit and well, he never learned to drive - said he couldn't be doing with all them idiots on the road - so he used to commute on the train to Wallasey where he worked as a plasterer. Things like colds never used to bother him, but a few days before the meningitis manifested itself he had complained that he had the flu; my dad never laid in bed, but this 'flu' was taking it out of him.

On Saturday my dad got up out of bed to fill in his Lottery slip and gave it to mum to put on for him. He was saying he had a banging headache and that no matter what he did he couldn't get his feet warm, and that he was just going to sit on the couch for a while. My mum kissed him goodbye, but when she returned around two hours later he was unconscious, one side of his face had fallen and he had blood coming from his mouth.

My dad was taken to hospital where he was taken for a brain scan which showed he had had a bleed on the brain. The doctors immediately suspected meningitis and began him on a course of antibiotics. They then had to do a lumbar puncture to take some fluid from dad's spine to see what kind of meningitis it was. I was devastated - I have two young boys and always associated meningitis with babies and children.

On Sunday the results came back that it was pneumococcal meningitis. Dad had so many drips coming out of his body, it seemed unreal.

We were taken into a room where a doctor explained to us that they were going to perform a series of tests the next day to check for brain activity. On Monday they did the tests; Dad didn't respond to any of them and we were told that he was 'brain stem dead'. Such horrible words. To think that his heart was still beating, but he was gone, tore me apart. My mum made a wonderful decision and said that my dad would have liked to help someone else live after his death and he donated his liver, kidneys and heart valves, all of which have gone on to give others a better quality of life.

At Dad's funeral we had a collection for the Meningitis Research Foundation and we have all registered as members. We have given out flyers, put posters everywhere, and are taking part in the big fun run in August 2009. Meningitis Research Foundation do a fantastic job, they are there if you need them and raise awareness. I hope with all my heart that one day there might be a cure so no one else will have to go through what me and my family went through.

Life without my dad is hard, he was such a quiet and gentle man, but this devastating disease took him and left a huge hole in our lives. He was a wonderful husband to my mum, dad to me and my older brother and sister and granddad to his six grandchildren.