A family in which both mum and daughter have suffered from potentially fatal meningitis are now raising money to fight the disease.
Police officer couple Kieron and Keeley Pearl, who live in a village in east Leicestershire, are raising moneyfor the charity Meningitis Now.
They are both taking part in the 100-mile Ride London cycle event in July.
The couple’s daughter Poppy Pearl (10) caught meningitis five years ago, when the family lived in Hallaton, north-east of Market Harborough.
Keeley had just given birth to the couple’s second child Noah, now five.
“Poppy had said she felt a bit unwell, but she didn’t complain of a headache or a stiff neck or any of the usual meningitis symptoms” said Keeley.
“Then suddenly she went very limp, she couldn’t walk, and she had the colour of a dead person. It was incredibly frightening.”
As paramedics rushed to save their daughter, worried parents told Poppy if she got better she could have anything she wanted. She opted for a McDonald’s.
But at Kettering General Hospital she was so ill that doctors put her into a coma.
“Our world fell apart” said Keeley. “At one point we were told ‘Prepare yourself, your daughter is very ill and she might not be coming home. She has meningococcal septicaemia’.
“Even if Poppy survived, there was a high chance of brain damage or of her losing fingers or lower limbs, for example.”
It was five terrifying days before Poppy emerged from the coma at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
Kieron and Keeley were at her bedside throughout, while Keeley’s sister cared for Noah.
“We were prepared for the possibility of brain damage. And when she came out of the coma, we were talking to her, and she was just gurgling and making no sense” said Keeley.
“Then gradually words came out, and then she said ‘Can I still have my McDonalds? That was the moment we knew we were still a family of four.”
Despite leaving hospital in a wheelchair, Poppy has since fully recovered.
Keeley said: “The doctors told us they have never seen a child so sick that has pulled through.”
But the family’s traumas weren’t over. Just a year later Keeley herself caught meningitis.
“I had all the symptoms” she said. “My neck was stiff, I couldn’t look at light, and the paramedics said my breath smelt of pear drops.
“At the time, I kind of thought meningitis was out to get us, that it was going to take one of us.”
But after her own spell in hospital, Keeley also recovered. Her main problem now, she cheerfully admits, is her memory.
“It’s not as good as it was, and I’ve completely forgotten parts of my childhood” she said. “I don’t know if that will come back.”
To find out more, go to www.meningitisnow.org
Keeley and Kieron have a justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/Kieron-Pearl1