Jamieka McCarthy-Harford was only 26 years old when she was struck down by an illness. The worst part is that she and her family never even saw it coming. Just hours after she got married, she deteriorated dramatically.
This story starts in December 2017. It should have been a time that McCarthy-Harford and her family could look back on fondly in years to come. However, it didn’t turn out that way. That’s because McCarthy-Harford died unexpectedly that month, leaving her family utterly devastated.
What’s even worse is that December 10 was McCarthy-Harford’s wedding day. As she walked down the aisle in her white dress, none of the guests could have imagined what might happen next. The wedding photos don’t even give any signs of what lay ahead.
McCarthy-Harford married her man, Alistair, on a beautifully sunny day on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, New Zealand. The photos show that the ceremony was held outdoors, with her family and friends in the congregation watching fondly.
The bride’s family said that she was “so happy to be married,” describing the whole ceremony as “a happy occasion surrounded by love.” But unfortunately, something terrible was around the corner. They just didn’t know it at the time.
The newly married couple’s joy wasn’t long-lasting at all. In the middle of the ceremony, McCarthy-Harford began to feel unwell. And it wasn’t as though she could take some medicine and continue celebrating the special day. It was far more serious than that.
Just a matter of hours after saying her wedding vows, McCarthy-Harford was dead. Her family and friends, and especially her husband, were utterly heartbroken. They never saw it coming. And it was the speed at which the bride was taken that was the most shocking part.
McCarthy-Harford was not involved in a road traffic accident, nor was she the victim of a heart attack. Rather, the bride was struck down by a very aggressive illness that claimed her life within hours of her beginning to feel ill.
Tragically, doctors confirmed that she had developed a bacterial infection. Although it was the infection that killed her so quickly, it was likely to have stemmed from meningococcal disease. Understandably, her husband was left in a state of shock.
“She was taken from us without notice by a horrible, deadly disease,” the heartbroken husband told the New Zealand Herald in December 2017. He said that her passing had been a huge shock to everybody, to lose her so quickly, making it incredibly difficult to process.
Her family too were distraught by the loss. They described her as “the most kind-hearted person in the world who loved life and she always put others before herself. She was a beloved wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend. She will be missed forever,” they said.
McCarthy-Harford’s mom also took to social media to express her loss. “Our beautiful 1st born baby girl Jamie… was abruptly taken from her father Will Catchakingi and I in mere hours after marrying the man she loves,” she wrote on Facebook.
It seems as though the suddenness of her passing was the most difficult part for McCarthy-Harford’s family. But with meningococcal disease, it’s very common for people to become seriously ill very quickly. In fact, it commonly claims lives within hours of the first symptoms.
Although the very first signs of meningococcal disease are often dismissed as the flu, they should not be ignored, as they can swiftly become much worse. To start with, sufferers might experience headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting, to name just a few of the symptoms.
McCarthy-Harford’s sudden onset of symptoms took everyone by surprise. The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has begun investigating exactly what happened to her. And the family are also involved, in the hope that they can stop bacteria transmission.
The grieving family was then faced with the daunting task of organizing a funeral. A fundraising page was set up in the hope of getting some help covering the costs. And it appears that the people of New Zealand were touched by the family’s tragic story.
Over the course of just a month, the family received over AU$5,000 ($4040) in donations towards the funeral. Over 100 generous people gave money to the cause, giving the family at least a little financial boost during what must have been very testing time for them.
“Jamieka was full of life, giving and caring. She dearly loved all those who were in her life in any shape or form. We are struggling to comprehend and understand what has happened but we need to come together to help the family,” read the statement on the fundraising page.
Thankfully, some kind strangers listened to the family’s plea and gave them some money so that they could give their “precious girl the final sending off she deserves.” The funeral fundraising account has since been closed.
McCarthy-Harford’s story is a truly heartbreaking one. What should have been the happiest day of the couple’s life turned out to be a nightmare. But, going forwards, her story serves to help others recognize the fast-developing symptoms of meningococcal disease, before it’s too late.