Meningitis plea after daughter's death

By Ted JeoryTHE mother of a healthy 23-year-old woman who died a day after contracting meningitis called last night for more awareness of the deadly disease.

By Ted Jeory

THE mother of a healthy 23-year-old woman who died a day after contracting meningitis called last night for more awareness of the deadly disease.

Sue Southern, a nurse at Colchester General Hospital, said she hoped her daughter, Michelle, had not died in vain.

She added a message needed to be sent out that meningitis was dangerous and if it could target her “wonderful” and healthy daughter, it could hit anyone.

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“If anything good can come from this, it needs to be publicised how dangerous and how serious this disease is,” said Mrs Southern.

“Michelle had shown no meningitis symptoms, she was fit and healthy. This can affect anybody and especially young people and young adults.

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“It targeted her and she was one of the strongest, fittest and healthiest people I know. She is going to be so very much missed.”

Michelle Southern, a single woman from Clacton, called her mum in Great Oakley at about 5am on Tuesday.

The care worker told her mother she felt stiff and her muscles ached, but she had no painkillers in the house.

“She'd been down the gym the day before with her brother, James, so I thought it might be something to do with that,” said Mrs Southern.

“But I suggested she phone a doctor to make sure and asked James if he would drive round to be with her.

“I phoned James about two hours later. He said she didn't seem her usual self, but she'd taken the anti-inflammatory tablets I'd given him.”

She added: “Just after midday, he phoned me and said she really wasn't quite right at all and that her speech had gone a bit.

“He said there was also some bruising at the back of her leg like a purple rash. At that moment, I just thought 'Meningitis'.”

Mrs Southern asked her son to press a glass against the rash to see if the skin blanched. When it did not, she told him: “Phone the doctor and prepare to get her to hospital.”

An ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and took Michelle to Colchester General Hospital.

Mrs Southern arrived at the hospital in time to see her daughter still conscious, but Michelle's condition deteriorated later.

She was put on a ventilator and at 7.45pm the following day, the family had to make the agonising decision to ask for her life support machine to be turned off.

Mrs Southern said Michelle, a former Harwich School pupil, had been a bright, feisty and fun-loving girl. “She was stubborn, but wonderful - she'd do anything for anybody,” she added.

“She was always smiling and could be a little tiger sometimes. She was very close to her brothers, James and Richard.

“We were all going to go away on holiday to Italy soon - the sandals she bought are still in the box.”

n The Meningitis Trust runs a 24-helpline on 0845 6000 800 offering information and support to people concerned about meningitis and meningococcal disease. For more information, visit

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