Girl, 14, dies of meningitis (Hereford Times, UK. Aug 24, 2000)

A 14-YEAR-OLD Hereford schoolgirl, described as a ‘little star’, has lost her two-week valiant battle against meningitis.

Bethan Clare Pember died in the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham on Sunday, surrounded by her family.

Her parents, Mervyn and Vivien of Sheridan Road, Hereford, had kept a round the clock vigil at her bedside since she was struck down by the disease on August 8.

They shared the vigil with Bethan’s brothers, Mathew, 23, and Ben, 20, and with close friends to ensure that Bethan, who was looking forward to starting in year 10 at Aylestone School, was never left alone.

Mathew, a fire fighter in the RAF and Ben, a L/Cpl in the Signals Regiment had been given compassionate leave to be with their ‘little sister’.

Although seriously ill the family had seen some encouraging signs that Bethan, who put up a hard and brave fight would recover, and her sudden death on Sunday evening was a devastating blow.

Although she had been vaccinated against meningitis in May, this year, it was the more serious form of meningococcal septicaemia that claimed her life.

The family’s grief at her untimely death has been shared in many parts of Hereford. The Rev Bob King, Vicar of Holy Trinity described Bethan as a ‘little star’ who brought a smile to the face of everyone who knew her. She had been baptised and confirmed at the church where she was a regular worshipper and acted as a server and was an active member of the Church youth club.

"She was full of life, a sparkling girl who was very polite, and loved by everyone," he said.

When her illness became known many people went to Hereford Cathedral and to Holy Trinity Church to pray for her.

Rev King, who visited Bethan in hospital, said a huge collection of toys and cards had been sent to her bedside and they had proved a great source of comfort to her. Another hospital visitor was Bethan’s head teacher Tony Wray of Aylestone School. "Bethan was a hard working and popular young woman and we are devastated by her loss. Our hearts go out to her family at this time," he told The Hereford Times. The last few weeks of Bethan’s life were filled with fun and excitement.

She made her first air flight for a week long trip to Poland with her parents and on her return spent a happy day at Alton Towers. On Saturday mornings she played football at Hereford Leisure Centre.

Her illness came out of the blue, starting with a headache. Bethan was admitted to Hereford County Hospital late on August 8 and transferred to Birmingham the following morning. Her family were given accommodation at the hospital so they could stay together and say they would like to thank all the doctors and nurses for the way they cared for their daughter and the support given.


Dr Alison Johnson the county s consultant for communicable diseases said the incubation period for the disease was between two and five days and in this case had no links to Bethan’s school.

Her family and close friends had beer prescribed antibiotics.

Dr Johnson said one in five people unknowingly carried the meningitis bacteria and it could only be caught from close quarters.

The disease was due to an organism called meningococcus but in Bethan’s case it had not yet been established if it was of the type B or C.

The vaccine available protected against type C which involved about 40 per cent of cases. There was no vaccine available yet for the more common type B, accounting for 60 per cent of cases.

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