Young woman's warning after nearly losing her life to meningococcal

A university student in Adelaide has told her extraordinary story to warn others they’re not immune from the disease.

Lily O’Connell’s doctors told her she had been about 30 minutes away from losing her life.

Shortly after 3pm on Christmas Day last year, she developed a high fever and began vomiting with neck and back pain.

This photo of a happy and healthy Lily O’Connell was taken on Christmas Day last year; just hours later she was critically ill. Source: 7 News

By midnight, she had a rash.

A few hours later, she was on death’s door, struck down by meningococcal at 23 years of age.

“Nothing compares to watching your child become that sick,” Lily’s mum Steph said.

“I used to think meningococcal was like a playground rumour, a myth,” Lily added.

“I didn’t think it was real. I still have friends who don’t believe they’d ever get sick.”

Lily broke out in a huge rash when she came down with meningococcal. Source: 7 News

Meningococcal is often thought of as a disease that affects only babies and teenagers.

There is no vaccine subsidy for those in their early 20s, but experts say it’s worth the out-of-pocket cost.

Lily came down with the W strain, but experts say the B strain is equally devastating.

“Five to 10 per cent can die,” immunisation expert Robert Booy said.

“Twenty to 25 per cent can be left with chronic medical problems, be it scarring, amputation or deafness.”

In August she underwent a kidney transplant – her donor was her older sister, Grace. Source: 7 News

Lily says she is one of the lucky ones, but the disease has taken its toll.

In August she underwent a kidney transplant – her donor was her older sister, grace.

“At the end of the day, I’m alive, and so I’m happy,” she said.