A young woman became a doctor after her best pal suddenly died from meningitis – when she was just 16.
Fiona Thompson, now 29, made the decision to study medicine after her best friend died while the pair were studying for their GCSE exams.
Fiona, from East Grinstead, East Sussex, was told her best mate Becky Holmes would not be coming to school because she was unwell – but sadly she passed away just 12 hours later.
Recalling the day in 2003, she said: “Becky didn’t come into school one day, and I heard she had been taken ill in the early hours of the morning and had gone to hospital with suspected meningitis.
“I had heard of meningitis, I thought it mostly affected babies and little children.
“I texted Becky to say I hoped she felt better soon – that evening I had calls from her family and other friends to say she’d become more poorly and was being transferred to a London hospital for intensive care.
“I remember becoming worried and asking her mum to send her love and say I would visit on the weekend and after 7pm I spoke to her big sister who was on the way to London and asked if she knew how Becky was.
“I still remember her words, ‘do you really want me to tell you Fi? Becky died at 20 past seven’.”
Meningitis is a rare disease which causes an inflammation to the brain and spinal cord which can kill in hours.
Devastated Fiona, who was contemplating her future at the time, vowed to help and raise awareness for the illness and help those it affects – by becoming a doctor.
Fiona went on to study medicine in Southampton is now a registrar GP who practises in her home town – close to Lingfield Notre Dame where she went to school.
She is now preparing to run in the Loch Ness Marathon in Scotland on Sunday and has raised more than #1,000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation.
“Even though it was twelve years ago, it’s still really sad.”
“The charity were around when Becky died and offered help to students at my school.
“After that we ended up raising a lot of money in her memory – more than £42,000 – but I haven’t done it in a while.”
While working over the summer, another death brought the memory of her close friend’s death to the forefront of her mind.
Fiona said: “Over the summer I worked in a paediatric ward hospital.
“A teenage boy was brought in with suspected meningitis. Despite emergency efforts of resuscitation, he died soon after arriving.
“His family and his friends’ lives all changed in an instant.”
Triggered by the emotion of this boy’s family, Fiona signed up to raise more money for the charity and raise awareness of the illness.
She said: “I’m not marathon-shaped – Becky was the sporty one.
“You can’t help think as you look at everyone growing up, she should have been growing older with us too.
“So I’ve been in training for 16 weeks and I’m going to do this.”
To donate to the Meningitis Research Foundation, visit:Fiona’s JustGiving page