Leeds meningitis survivor backs health app

Kathleen Hawkins.
Kathleen Hawkins.
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Meningitis may have taken her legs – but Kathleen Hawkins knows it could have been much worse.

Her parents were twice warned she might die as she lay critically ill.

Five years on, the Leeds student has rebuilt her life and lets little stop her.

She has just been named as an ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation and is promoting the charity’s new iPhone app.

She said: “So many students just like me don’t know the symptoms so the app can tell you what to look out for and get you to the nearest hospital. It only takes 30 seconds to download and could save a life.”

Kathleen, of Woodhouse, Leeds, was 18 and in her first semester of a degree course at Leeds University when she became ill in December 2007.

The keen dancer had been to an evening rehearsal and thought she had flu so wasn’t overly concerned.

But during the night she was sick and by the following morning was losing consciousness. Her flatmates rang an ambulance and she was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary, where she was diagnosed with meningitis and taken to intensive care.

By the time her parents arrived, she was fighting for her life.

Kathleen, now 23, said: “I was on life support as my organs had failed that quickly. It’s such a short time frame in order to get the treatment.”

After doctors twice warning her family she was unlikely to survive, Kathleen pulled through, but her legs had been badly damaged by septicaemia. She was told initially that one would need to be amputated below the knee.

“I can remember just screaming at the doctor ‘please no’,” she said.

Eventually the other had to be amputated too, but within weeks Kathleen was walking again on prosthetic legs. She returned to university months later and is now studying for a master’s degree.

Now she is determined to raise awareness of the telltale signs of meningitis. Download the free app from iTunes or log on to www.meningitis.org/iphone.

Skin specialist Dr Angela Goyal.

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