Little Caoimhe McFadden had just returned from a successful Irish dancing competition and appeared to be a bit under the weather with flu-like symptoms.
Within hours, and virtually without warning, the eight-year-old Derry girl had died from meningococcal meningitis.
“I have never seen anything as fast in my life,” her father Ciaran recalled. “In a matter of hours she was gone.”
Recalling the events that led to his little daughter’s death back in December 1997, Ciaran from the Bogside area told the Journal:
“She had been out Irish dancing that Sunday. She had won a few medals that day.
“She was feeling a bit unwell, lazing about a wee bit. By the night-time she was not too good, although she had no rash or anything.
“I took her to the Health Centre at 10.30pm. The doctor there gave her a quick jag of antibiotics and said to take her straight to casualty.”
By the time they got there, Caoimhe’s condition had deteriorated further and doctors quickly confirmed that Caoimhe was displaying the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis.
“She wasn’t responding,” Ciaran said. “They took her straight into resus and tried to cool her down. But by 2am she was dead.
“Meningitis had been in our heads earlier on that night but there was no rash.”
Ciaran said the memory of those days and the bereavement the family suffered was something he and his wife carried with them every day.
“Caoimhe was just your normal wee girl, full of life; full of energy.
“She was an Irish dancer and she was a fan of the Spice Girls.
“She died just before her ninth birthday.
“There is a hole there. It is like a cut that never heals.”
Welcoming the new vaccination roll-out, Mr. McFadden urged all those eligible to get the vaccine.
“I’m glad to see it. I hope other families, other children, other parents, won’t have to go through what we went through.
“It’s still there, you just learn to manage it, and I believe there is always somebody worse off, and I know I am not the only one.
“I would advise people to get this vaccine without hesitation.
“It’s peace of mind for yourself and for your parents and I would also urge parents to look at this as I know teenagers are very easy-going.
“It is there, get it done.”