At midnight she threw a selfie on the instagrama. She was dead by the morning

A Whanganui mother has a heartfelt, but chilling warning after losing her teenage daughter to meningitis …

“It could happen to anyone.”

The sudden and tragic death of 18-year-old Chloe Boniface has prompted mum Tarsha to speak out.

Chloe was, in her mum’s eyes, the most special girl in the whole world.

But, more importantly, she was also just like any other girl – and that’s the thing so many people don’t know about meningitis: it can happen to anyone.

The grieving mother is now on a mission to make sure people understand that the disease that killed Chloe doesn’t prey on any particular type.

“She didn’t come from a poor family, she didn’t live in cramped living spaces, she looked after herself, she had great healthcare …

“Chloe is the opposite of everything they are saying at the moment about this disease and who it affects,” said Tarsha, a bank worker in Whanganui.

It’s been more than a month since she received a last text message from her daughter.

Attending university in Wellington, Chloe would get in touch with her mum every day, be it via Snapchat, text or phone calls.

On November 7, Chloe, who would have turned 19 in February, died in her dorm room at Victoria University.

Tarsha’s phone will never beep again with an update from her beautiful daughter, and the grieving mum can’t quite believe she’s had to bury her girl.

Chloe, who was in her first year of university studying marine biology and physical geography, was an A-average student. She’d made good friends in Wellington and was truly loving life in her new home city.

It all changed at the end of October. That’s when she started telling mum that she was feeling a bit low and run down. “I had sent her some vitamins and encouraged her to make sure she was looking after herself,” Tarsha recalls

“She had texted me saying she was feeling miserable, she had a sore body, a massive headache, had slept for over three hours and her eyes were really sore to the light.”

The stress of exam season was a perfectly reasonable excuse for the exhaustion but not to the extent of the symptoms Chloe began experiencing over the following few days, in early November.

“She had texted me saying she was feeling miserable, she had a sore body, a massive headache, had slept for over three hours (this wasn’t like her, she was not a sleeper) and her eyes were really sore to the light.

“I thought it all sounded like she was coming down with a cold or the flu, so I spoke to her and told her that she needed to have some Panadol, hydrate, sleep and try and sweat it out.

“I knew she was stressed with exams and had a big one coming up so I just put it down to a combination of a few things.”

Tarsha did what every parent does and worried about her girl, sick away from home. But she could never have imagined she was about to lose her forever.

On their very last phone call, on November 6, Tarsha and Chloe spoke for quite a while. Their parting words to one another were: “I love you.”

A few hours later, around 10.30pm, Chloe messaged her mum asking if she thought it’d be okay for her to have some plain chips as she had been vomiting.

Tarsha was asleep and didn’t reply to the message until she saw it in the morning.

“I also texted her on my lunch break. I didn’t even stop to think it was weird I hadn’t heard from her as I put it down to her being sick and studying.

“It had taken her so fast – within me speaking with her at 5.15pm on the Tuesday, she was dead before 5am on the Wednesday.”

Meningitis is fast and furious and it has left a mother grieving for the girl she lost, the woman that Chloe won’t get to become.

“She was going to do amazing things”. Tarsha is sure of it.

“The thing is, this could happen to anyone’s child who is off to uni for the first time and experiencing life outside of home, who starts going to clubs and sharing drinks, or smokes.

“We never thought it would happen to us, and I would pay for that vaccine 1000 times over if it meant that my baby would be with us still and I wouldn’t be in this nightmare.”

“Or who lives in a dorm and may share a cup or knife and fork. Who is now cleaning up after themselves and maybe not keeping themselves up to the standards they had at home with their hygiene because they have way better and more fun things to do.

“We never thought it would happen to us, and I would pay for that vaccine 1000 times over if it meant that my baby would be with us still and I wouldn’t be in this nightmare.”

There have been six deaths in New Zealand this year from the W strain of the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease (MenW).

The number of MenW cases nationwide jumped from five in 2016 to 29 this year. Now Tarsha is urging the Government to overhaul the way the vaccination process works.

She has no doubt any parent would pay whatever money they could to ensure their child was safe but she feels like, even more than funding, what parents need first and foremost is to be fully informed of the risks.

“I don’t feel like we were informed at all about this disease – meningitis was not even on our radar of things I needed to be concerned about.

“We had talked about the dangers of walking at night, of making sure she was eating right, protecting her drinks when she went out, ensuring her room was locked when she was away from it … not once did we think about this disease or have any information given to us about her being in the high-risk group.”

A free vaccination programme has started in Northland to halt the spread of a community outbreak of the MenW.

Pharmac has confirmed it has procured an additional 5000 doses of meningococcal ACWY vaccine, which brings the total stock available for Northland’s targeted three-week vaccination programme to 25,650 doses.

Children from nine months to five years of age and teens aged from 13 to 19 will be given the first available vaccines.

Tarsha doesn’t want to scare people but she wants everyone to be informed properly like she wishes she had been.

“I don’t want another family to lose their child because they weren’t aware. I really want there to be more information out there for students and parents,” she said.

“Had we have known about this disease we would have gone to our doctor and received the information we needed.

“I know there are many people out there who don’t want to get vaccinated and that is their decision, but if there was something given to parents in open day packs or some sort of information given when looking into university or boarding school dorms around the first year being such a high risk then maybe, just maybe, more will be okay.”

■The life of Chloe Sarah-Leeann Boniface, beloved daughter of Tarsha and Ricky, big sister to Corbin, was celebrated with a service in Whanganui on November 13. Instead of flowers, people were invited to make donations to Greenpeace – the future marine biologist would have been proud.


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