A COUNTY Durham couple have urged parents to be alert to all signs and symptoms of meningitis after a terrifying ordeal watching their daughter spend nine gruelling nights fighting the deadly disease.

Ross and Hannah Parker, of Chester-le-Street , whose daughter Aubrey has now fully recovered, fell ill at the age of six months without developing a rash.

Their nightmare started after Aubrey spent an evening vomiting and was sent straight to hospital, recording a temperature of 42 degrees.

Ross said: “Nine gruelling nights continued as we saw our happy, joyful baby have the life drained out of her,

“As any parent will understand, for a small child not to have a whimper while various doctors extracted blood and performed a lumbar puncture – we knew something was seriously wrong”.

Aubrey was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and at one stage the Parkers were taken to one side and warned by a doctor that she might not make it.

This, said Ross, was incredibly harrowing – but made him all the more proud when his daughter gradually began to pull through.

He said: “On the fourth day of being in hospital we heard Aubrey cry and even managed to crack a smile.

“Our little girl was starting to recover and nothing could have delighted us more than to have her at that very moment”.

On the seventh day in the hospital, and with the worst behind them, the couple celebrated, with a take away pizza delivered directly to the paediatric ward.

Ross added: “We can never thank the doctors and nurses enough for all they have done – if it wasn’t for their quick diagnoses we may not have been so lucky.

“If we could educate anyone on meningitis it would be to not always look for the rash. Aubrey had no sign of the rash and yet she contracted the most fatal type of meningitis there is.

“But luckily for us this story has a happy ending and Aubrey is now a happy, clever and gorgeous little five-year-old.”

After the experience, Ross and Hannah decided they wanted to raise cash for the charity Meningitis Now that supported them so entered last September’s Great North Run together.

Ross said this was the fifth time he had taken part in the race – but that this year, in order to run with first-timer Hannah, he decided to start alongside her at the back rather than try and beat his personal best.

He said: “It was still a brilliant day though. From a purely selfish basis I didn’t run as fast as I would like to as I started in the middle of a big crowd and had to run around people, but it was still really enjoyable.

“And we also smashed our £600 fundraising target – so it was all worthwhile, even if I didn’t beat my personal best time”.

He also admitted that while he didn’t get his best time, his wife finished in a “very respectable” under 2.5 hours – and has already said she is keen to do it again next year.

Anyone inspired to take part in the Great North Run 2020 or any other event for the charity, or would like to get information about the signs and symptoms of meningitis visit https://www.meningitisnow.org.