Student's death from meningitis prompts warning from parents

By John Lewis

Brittany Arthur, a 20-year-old Otago Polytechnic nursing student who died at the weekend from meningitis Photo / Supplied
Brittany Arthur, a 20-year-old Otago Polytechnic nursing student who died at the weekend from meningitis Photo / Supplied

The parents of a 20-year-old Otago Polytechnic nursing student, who died tragically at the weekend from meningitis, have called on Dunedin residents - particularly students - to be wary of the disease's symptoms.

Brittany Arthur, of Christchurch, was in her final year at Otago Polytechnic, and died at Dunedin Hospital on Saturday from acute meningococcal meningitis.

It is not known how she contracted the disease.

A family friend said doctors had told the family that people can be a carrier of the disease, some can be affected mildly with flu-like symptoms, and for others it was fatal.

"Brittany was well last Wednesday. She sat her final exam and went out for dinner afterwards.

"Then on Thursday, she woke up in the morning with a headache. During the day she felt like she was coming right, but then it came on again later in the afternoon.

"She went back to bed and just before midnight she got up and collapsed. She was taken into intensive care [at Dunedin Hospital]."

She never regained consciousness.

Parents Jose and Donald Arthur praised staff at Dunedin Hospital for the care their daughter received.

They encouraged Dunedin residents and students to be wary of anyone displaying symptoms of meningitis, including severe headache, fever, cold hands and feet, vomiting, drowsiness, difficult to wake, confusion and irritability, severe muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, spots/rash, and/or a stiff neck.

"The message is, with things like that, you have to take them seriously. Seek help and look out for your friends," Jose Arthur said.

Brittany went to school at Lincoln Primary and St Margaret's College in Christchurch, before coming to Dunedin.

Jose Arthur said Brittany identified nursing as her chosen career from an early age and quickly realised it was her passion.

"The positive feedback from her patients reinforced that her caring and thoughtful disposition were perfectly suited to nursing."

She described Brittany as a "very compassionate and loving person" who took great pleasure in helping others.

"Following her tragic death, her giving has continued with her organs being used to enhance the well-being of others through Organ Donation New Zealand.

"Brittany touched the lives of many people and will be sorely missed."

A Thanksgiving Service will be held for Brittany at 2pm on Thursday, at Lincoln Baptist Church, Lincoln.

What you need to know

• Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges.
• It is usually the result of an infection.
• Infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.
• A high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting, drowsiness are common symptoms.
• Joint pain, a rash, light sensitivity and seizures are also possible.
• Bacterial meningitis can cause death within hours if not properly treated.
• There are vaccines available which protect against some types of meningitis,
• If you suspect meningitis, contact your doctor or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Source: The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand

- Otago Daily Times

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