Mother's meningitis diary reveals how her healthy daughter was ravaged by the illness in just four hours

  • Erica would have died if she hadn't called out for a glass of water in the night she fell ill
  • Doctors tell her parents she had been just three hours from death

At 7.30pm, Michelle Scoffings put her three-year-old daughter to bed with a slight temperature.

Just before midnight, Erica woke up and asked for a drink. If she hadn’t, she would not be alive today.

Mrs Scoffings noticed the little girl’s temperature had soared and there were purple blotches all over her body.

Michael and Michelle Scoffings with their daughter Erica who is recovering from meningitis

Michael and Michelle Scoffings with their daughter Erica who is recovering from meningitis

Erica Scoffings during her treatment for meningitis

Erica at 5am on January 29th, five hours after they got to hospital (left) The purple marks quickly spread (right)

She and her husband Michael immediately performed one of the key tests for meningitis – pressing a clear glass against the skin to see if the rash fades under pressure.

It did not, so the couple from Chesterfield bundled Erica into the family car and drove her straight to hospital.

Doctors diagnosed meningococcal septicaemia and said she might have only three hours to live.

Both of her legs went black and she was placed in intensive care with bandaged limbs and drips keeping her alive. Amazingly she pulled through, and is now firmly on the road to recovery after months of hospital treatment.

Mrs Scoffings kept a remarkable photo diary of her daughter’s brush with death and has made it public to raise awareness of how quickly meningitis can take hold.

Erica on February 20. Fortunately doctors were able to save her legs

Erica on February 20. Fortunately doctors were able to save her legs

Erica on February 24th
Erica Scoffings

Recovery:  Erica on February 24th (left). She is now re-learning how to walk (right)

It was in January that Erica complained of feeling poorly and her mother put it down to a stomach bug. By the time Erica went to bed she was feeling better and looked fine. Yet when she woke up four hours later she complained that she could not move.

‘I took the quilt off her and saw the purple marks,’ said her mother, who has seven other children.

‘Me and my husband did the glass test and then rushed to hospital. Not ringing and waiting for an ambulance was the best thing we could have done.

‘You have to get to the hospital quickly and getting there in ten minutes made a difference.

‘It happened so quickly, we didn’t have time to think. I was terrified as there was nothing I could do. Every time someone touched her she screamed.

Erica, 3, was just three hours from death

Erica, 3, was just three hours from death after she contracted meningitis

'There were so many doctors and medical staff in the room at the hospital. I was in shock but surrounded by my family.

‘Erica was screaming and I felt helpless. I just had to sit there and watch and as a parent that is the worst thing that can happen.’

Later that night Erica was transferred from Chesterfield Royal Hospital to the intensive care unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.Her legs went black as the septicaemia ate away at her flesh, exposing the bone.

‘We expected her to just go on to a drip but we didn’t expect her to go into intensive care,’ said Mrs Scoffings. ‘It was the septicaemia which made it so much worse. It was awful.

‘Erica was screaming all the time. I was a mess when the surgeon said she might have to have both legs amputated.

‘That was a last resort but it was definitely a possibility. Both her legs and her right hand were completely black.’

Erica was transferred to a specialist burns unit as the effect on her limbs was similar to severe burns, and she underwent skin grafts. Amputation was prevented by ‘vacuum therapy’, which encouraged the tissue to cover the bone.

Mrs Scoffings added: ‘The NHS have been fantastic. They told us everything that was happening.

‘Erica is so bubbly and  intelligent. She kept saying, “One day I will walk again, Mummy” and we stayed really positive throughout the whole situation.

‘She understands that she has been poorly but she has her appetite back now. She is a bit unsteady on her feet and will need splints to walk properly.’

Erica spent two weeks in hospital and has since returned three times for skin graft operations. But less than eight months after being struck down by the illness, she is due to start nursery next month.

‘If it wasn’t for the glass test then we wouldn’t have known what was wrong,’ said her mother.

‘I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t called out for a drink that evening.’