A mother has spoken of the terrifying moment she discovered her daughter had meningitis.

Gill Darbyshire's daughter Emily was in intensive care for two months fighting meningitis encephalitis and septicaemia.

She is still being treated in a specialist brain injury unit.

The family, from Nightingales Close, Horsham, want to raise awareness of the disease and the work of the national charity, Meningitis UK.

Mrs Darbyshire said: "Emily was on holiday in Greece and came back with a cold and some bites which didn't get any better.

"We just thought it was the flu but she kept complaining about a shoulder ache.

"We knew about the main symptoms of meningitis and what to look out for but at the time we didn't realise aching limbs could be part of that, especially the shoulder.

"By the Monday she was feeling worse and said she couldn't face bright lights, which set the alarm bells ringing.

"A tiny rash also developed on her foot.

"We rang NHS Direct, who sent for an ambulance and it was the longest seven minutes of my life waiting for it to arrive.

"At hospital the doctors at first said she had a classic case of meningitis and would be in hospital for three to four days.

"Within four hours of arriving at hospital Emily was on a life-support machine fighting for her life due to multiple organ failure."

Emily, who is now 19, spent 62 days in intensive care and seven months in hospital after having the disease diagnosed in September 2006. She is now receiving treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation Brain Injury Centre in Surrey and recently took her geography A-level.

She still needs to use a wheelchair but is determined to lead as full a life as possible.

Emily said: "With the dedication of my family and friends I have had to learn to talk, write and hopefully walk again.

"I hope to go to university in the near future and to ride horses again.

"I also thank my mum's company for the effort they made to raise funds and awareness of this illness, and just how quickly it can take hold."

The firm, Singer & Friedlander Finance in Dorking, Surrey, raised £222 in April as part of Meningitis UK's 4-Hour Challenge by holding a dress-down day and raffle.

The 4-hour Challenge marked the first anniversary of the charity's Search 4 A Vaccine Campaign and highlighted the fact meningitis can kill in under four hours.

The campaign's aim is to help raise £7 million to fund research into developing a vaccine against meningitis B, the most common form of the disease in Britain.

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