Gemma Bland had just started at Strathclyde University in Glasgow when she thought she had been struck down with so-called “freshers flu”.
However, the 18-year-old’s condition quickly worsened, with a huge rash developing all over her body on September 21.
Gemma's family fear she could have died if it hadn't been for the vigilance of gran Eileen Wingfield, 64, and sister Kayleigh Wingfield, 21, who spotted the unusual breakout during a video chat.
The pair were catching up with Gemma about her first few weeks at university when they spotted the tell-tale marks of a meningitis rash and begged her to go to A&E.
The maths and teaching student was put on an emergency drip and endured a lumbar puncture at Glasgow Royal Infirmary where she was later diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.
She was later transferred to the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and remains on the communicable diseases ward in a stable condition.
Speaking from Gemma’s bedside, mum Marie Wingfield hailed the video chat for saving her daughter’s life.
She said: “Gemma was very drowsy by that point and had been in and out of sleep and I believe she may have gone to sleep that night and possibly not woken up come the morning.
“It doesn’t even bear thinking about really, just how tragic this situation could have been had the FaceTime call not taken place.”
The 42-year-old mum-of-eight went on to endure a “nerve-wracking” four hour drive from their hometown of Elgin to Glasgow to be by her daughter’s side.
The NHS domestic assistant said: “I was very fearful at the beginning when I was told I should make my way down to Glasgow to be with Gemma because she had meningitis symptoms.
“It was a nerve wracking 4 hour drive wondering how she would be when I arrived at the hospital to see her and obviously I was very anxious too, knowing the seriousness of what was wrong with Gemma.”
Marie later shared a shocking picture of her teenage daughter's rash on social media to raise awareness about “freshers flu” and the real risk of these symptoms.
What is 'Fresher's Flu?'
- 'Fresher's Flu' is the name given to a bout of sickness that usually occurs during the first week of university
- It is actually a 'bad cold' and can leave you feeling rough for up to a week
- The chances of catching it are heightened by induction week parties, a lack of sleep, bad eating habits, alcohol and stress
- Symptoms include shivering, fever, dry coughing, sneezing, headaches and fatigue
- However, if you have other symptoms, you should seek immediate medical advice
Her Facebook warning has already racked up almost 10,000 likes since it was posted on Friday night.
Marie said: “If my social media post helps any young person to be aware and vigilant of meningitis symptoms then it has absolutely been worth the share.
“As a parent I had never heard of freshers flu and my concern as a parent was that if Gemma could dismiss her meningitis symptoms as being a case of freshers flu then so could many others.
“We were not made aware of all meningitis vaccines available prior to Gemma moving to her university halls.
“Had we been aware as a family Gemma would have been vaccinated and quite potentially not been in the situation she is in now.”
Her family have hailed both the NHS and Strathclyde University for all of their support following the ordeal.
Marie said: “Gemma’s care both at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and here at QEUH has been very proactive and dedicated, ultimately it has saved Gemma’s life and for that I will be forever thankful to all NHS staff involved in Gemma’s care and recovery.
She added: “Gemma, although so unwell is concerned about missing her lectures at uni but her health at this time is more important and Strathclyde have assured Gemma that when she is able to return they will work with her to support her as much as she needs them to, which is fantastic to hear.”
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