THE grieving sister of a meningitis victim says her family is hoping her death will highlight the speed at which the killer disease can strike.
Emma Ward, of West Boldon, was 32 years old and had her whole life ahead of her.
But the Sunderland University student and a devoted mother to a 14-year-old son, died just over a week after starting to feel ill.
Crucially, she didn’t seek medical help for three days.
Today, her older sister paid tribute to Emma and urged people to be aware of the symptoms associated with the killer disease.
Helen Brun says she was “so intelligent”, the world was her oyster.
Mrs Brun, who lives in Stockton, Teesside, said: “She had been suffering with what she thought was a head cold on the Wednesday.
“It got worse, and she took some painkillers on the Friday night and went to bed.
“On Saturday she was rushed to hospital after her son was unable to wake her, and put straight onto a life support machine.
“Emma never regained consciousness and died six days later.
“When people think of meningitis they automatically assume you have to have a rash.
“Emma didn’t have the rash. Everything seemed to happen really quickly.
“One minute she was complaining of headaches, believing it was a head cold, the next she was on a life-support machine.
“Her death has left a really big hole in our hearts and has devastated our mum Mariane.
“She was only 32. She had everything to live for, she was beautiful and so intelligent.
“What has happened has really changed our lives forever – she was my baby sister.”
Miss Ward first felt unwell on Wednesday, November 27, last year. She was rushed to South Tyneside District Hospital on Saturday, November 30, and died on Thursday, December 5.
Mrs Brun added: “It is so important people know of the symptoms of meningitis, and that there doesn’t have to be a rash for it to be meningitis.”
Miss Ward was on the organ donor register and it is believed her organs have gone on to help others.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, GP and chairman of South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This very sad case highlights the fact that anyone of any age can contract meningitis.
“Although a distinctive skin rash is a symptom, it’s important to note that not everyone gets this.
“It’s important to watch out for other symptoms such as a severe headache, vomiting, a high temperature, a stiff neck, sensitivity to light, rapid breathing and a general feeling of being unwell.
“Not everyone will get all these symptoms but anyone who is becoming rapidly more unwell with a combination of these symptoms should seek medical advice urgently.
“In babies and children the symptoms include a very high fever with cold hands and feet, continuous crying and a blotchy red rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it.
“Some children may feel sleepy and become difficult to wake, while others may become confused and unresponsive.”
To join the organ donor register, go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk