Life Stories

Jennifer's Legacy

My daughter, Jennifer, was a third year student at UWS in Paisley studying Forensic Science.  For a couple of weeks prior to her passing she had a fairly persistent cold with a sore throat and a cough.  These symptoms were mild and not enough for her to require pain relief.  She still attended uni and work, and was able to go out with friends.

On 15th April Jennifer went to uni.  That evening she went out with friends to a club.  Her friends reported that over the evening Jennifer felt unwell and was sick at one point so she came home earlier than normal.  The next day she felt unwell with a mild headache, sore joints and occasional vomiting.  She stayed in bed but contacted friends throughout the day by phone and text; she thought she had a bug or a hangover from the night before.  She was extremely thirsty all day but uncomplaining and not requiring pain relief.

On the Sunday Jennifer woke up with a sore head and neck.  As the morning progressed her headache did not lessen. She called NHS 24 and gave them her symptoms over the phone.  They suggested that she attend out of hours at Royal Alexandra Hospital.  Her dad escorted her there and she was sick in the car.  Her symptoms deteriorated and by the time she reached the hospital her headache and neck pain had worsened.  The on-call GP diagnosed either viral meningitis or the flu.  Jennifer had neck pain, headache, sore joints, vomiting and a high temperature, but no rash.  By now it was about 11.30 am.  Jennifer was referred to the medical admissions ward for assessment.  On arrival she was taken to a side room where she soon began to lose consciousness and became agitated and delirious.  She was sent to intensive care which organised a CT scan of her head and gave a working diagnosis of meningitis.  She was put into an induced coma.  The CT scan showed swelling on the brain and a venous thrombosis which was deemed a life or death situation.  Jennifer was quickly transferred to neurosurgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  She went to theatre in an attempt to relieve the swelling on her brain.  Unfortunately, it was too late to do this and we were informed at 7.30 pm that Jennifer was brain dead but we would have to wait until about 11 am the next day in order for conclusive tests to be carried out.

A few hours later we were approached by a doctor who asked my husband and I if we would consider donating her organs.  We did not need to discuss this; we both said yes straight away.  I carry a card and my husband has since registered.  A few hours later that night we were approached by a doctor who had checked the list and advised us that, in fact, Jennifer had already registered as a donor.  We were very surprised as she had not told anyone about this; however, she was a very compassionate girl and therefore I shouldn't have been surprised.  She was kept on a ventilator for another 24 hours whilst potential donors could be sought.

Several weeks later we received a letter telling us that five people had received Jennifer’s organs (two women in their 30s, a woman in her 40s, a woman in her 60s and a child under 5.  I felt very emotional hearing this.  

Jennifer was sadly pronounced dead on 18th April.  After her passing the public health department advised us that blood tests had found that Jennifer had bacterial meningitis.

We have a memorial garden at home in memory of Jennifer and to celebrate her gift. We have a wind chime with one large butterfly and five small butterflies below this.  We are so proud of her.  Many friends and other people who read Jennifer's story have now signed up too.

Jennifer was awarded a posthumous degree as she was one exam away from completing her degree when she died.

The support from the local community and friends that we have had has been amazing.  Jennifer was an extremely popular girl with many friends and acquaintances.  She has touched many hearts and has changed and saved many lives.  She will be remembered as the smiling girl with bright red hair and piercing blue eyes who loved life and lived it to the full.

In Jennifer's memory please have that conversation with your loved ones.  From an awful tragedy you could bring hope and a future to adults and children alike, just as Jennifer did.

Edwina Gray