A KIDDERMINSTER mum has shared the heartbreaking story of her husband's sudden death two days before Christmas 2014 to raise awareness of meningitis.

GP and father-of-three John Spalding had spent the evening of Monday, December 22 wrapping Christmas presents before settling into bed with a glass of wine at around midnight.

At 3am, the 55-year-old woke his physiotherapist wife Dianne complaining of a temperature. He felt as if he had a virus.

Thinking little of it, John took a paracetamol and ibuprofen and went back to sleep.

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At 7am, he woke again with a fever and rigors, which wasn't unusual due to his eczema, and said he felt sick.

"I phoned his practice manager to say he wouldn’t be in," said Dianne. "He never missed work, but he said he would be in later. He had paracetamol and ibuprofen and went back to sleep."

Dianne went shopping for Christmas veg and returned at 10am to find John still sleeping. He didn't stir when she tried to wake him.

At 12.30pm, she heard him moving and went upstairs to check on him.

"John was sitting on the end of the bed," she said. "But then he fell backwards. He said 'phone an ambulance'.

"I did, but his colour and breathing rapidly deteriorated.

"Over the phone they told me to get him on the floor and start CPR. We did.

"He was dead within three minutes."

Dianne said she knew John had gone, but continued with CPR until the ambulance crew arrived and took over.

"My eldest son Phil arrived at the hospital for us to tell him his Dad was dead," she said. "I had to tell my middle son who was living in Doncaster at the time over the phone."

A post-mortem showed John's internal organs were covered in a rash and a week later it was found to be bacterial meningitis W - a particularly deadly strand of the disease.

To mark Meningitis Awareness Week this week, Dianne is urging people to get vaccinated and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease.

She said: "Meningitis is a devastating disease which respects no one, which strikes without warning - it can change your life in minutes.

"Not having that chance to hold John and tell him how much I loved him was so hard. There was no time to adjust to our life without him.

“I contacted the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) after John’s death because I needed to talk to someone.

"I realised that most deaths weren’t so sudden but the support I have had from MRF has helped me understand the disease, help to deal with my loss in as positive way as possible.

"MRF have listened to me the whole way through and always been there for me. I have become a befriender and an ambassador for the charity.

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“Although my husband was a doctor and the signs he presented with where not worrying or different than the flu until the three minutes before he died. Please get vaccinated and increase your awareness of the disease.”

Paying tribute to her husband, Dianne said: "John, despite the long hours he worked, was a brilliant involved dad.

"He was school governor, coached Richard’s rugby team and ran the line at the boys' football matches.

"In every way he was there for our boys. Phil, Rich and Tim miss him so much but I am so proud of the way they have dealt with his loss.

"Phil has moved onto a new job and started his masters, Rich has moved to a new job in London and Tim achieved a first class honours degree.

"They would have so loved to tell their dad these things. They have achieved all of this because their dad lives on through them."

For Meningitis Awareness Week, MRF has published a report on the serious and underestimated consequences of meningitis.

To download the report, or for more information on MRF’s support services and the signs and symptoms of meningitis, visit meningitis.org.