From rash to death in two hours
It was meant to be a day of celebration for Wellington woman Lisa Crook. Instead, she watched her 12-year-old daughter die suddenly from suspected meningococcal disease.
"Beautiful, fit, healthy" Amanda Crook-Barker had enjoyed an eventful weekend. She attended her school disco last Friday night. On Saturday she went to a friend's "pizza party" birthday. She spent Sunday with her dad for Father's Day, and had dinner with her granddad.
But on Monday, feeling "a little bit sick", she had the day off school,
After lunch the Evans Bay Intermediate School pupil had started to feel better, chatting and playing computer games.
Then, about 3pm, she developed a rash. By 5pm she was dead.
Monday was also her mum's birthday. But rather than celebrating, Ms Crook watched her eldest child die in "horrific" fashion.
"It was also my birthday . . . so that's a day that I'll probably never, ever celebrate again," she said last night. "I thought I'd seen a lot in my life but never anything like what I saw yesterday.
". . . the aftermath of what it did to her - that wasn't my daughter. It was almost like she had been attacked by the plague, that's how horrific it was."
Amanda had vomited in the morning but had begun to perk up until the rash appeared, Ms Crook said. "She was fine. That's what we can't get our heads around, just how quickly she went."
Ambulance staff began working on Amanda the moment they arrived and kept working during the ride to hospital, before doctors took over. "As soon as she got to hospital a team of doctors pretty much jumped on her. They worked on her for about an hour and a half, and she died about 5pm.
"You'd think there would be warning, but there was just nothing.
"Even once she got to hospital and got antibiotics, she was talking. We thought she was coming right. [Then] her heart, I think, just gave in."
If meningococcal disease is confirmed as the cause of death, it will be the first fatal case in Wellington this year.
There have been 38 cases of meningococcal disease in the year to July, compared to 55 in the same period the year before.
Figures for August and September were not yet available.
Nationally, from 2006-10 there were between five and eight deaths a year from meningococcal disease. Last year, there were 13.
Annette Nesdale, medical officer of health for Regional Public Health, said meningococcal disease could be "very, very severe" and struck most commonly around the beginning of spring.
"It's quite a rare condition but it can be very rapid. It can start out looking like any other winter illness, like the flu, but meningococcal disease can deteriorate quickly."
Evans Bay Intermediate School principal Wendy Esera said Amanda's death had been felt widely at the school.
Pupils spent much of yesterday writing messages on the asphalt at school and decorating Amanda's desk.
"It is very special and a real indication of how she was valued by the kids. Things like: ‘We miss you already,' ‘Rest in peace', ‘God will look after you now', [and] ‘You are a friend forever, you'll never be forgotten'."
Ms Crook said the messages were a testament to her daughter's spirit. "But that was Mandy - she was such a popular kid. Everyone loved her."
A service will be held at the school on Saturday morning, followed by a private burial at Makara Cemetery.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
Meningococcal bacteria can be transferred through contact with saliva, such as kissing, sharing drink bottles, or droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing.
Symptoms can resemble those of other infectious diseases, such as flu, and can start and progress quickly, often within 24 hours.
They include fever, drowsiness, aversion to bright light, neck stiffness, muscle aches and pains, vomiting, nausea, headaches and a rash.
Even when the disease is identified and treated early, about one person in every 10 will die. Those who survive can experience long-term effects, such as brain injury or limb amputation.
Infants, children under 5, and adolescents have an increased risk. Being exposed to tobacco smoke, living in a crowded household or having another respiratory infection can increase a person's chance of carrying the bacteria.
A vaccine against the disease is free for children and adults whose spleens are faulty or have been removed.
The Dominion Post