Bella was one of the most beautiful girls on the outside, but she also had the kindest soul on the inside.
She was the person all her friends turned to for advice, and she always knew the right things to say.
She was the loyalest of friends and stuck by people through the tough times and the happy times; she was always there for them no matter what. Bella could light up a room with her smile and her big blue eyes, and she was funny and goofy and classy, all at the same time.
She had no idea of her beauty or talents, or that she was the person everyone needed. Most of all, Bella was kind and generous and loved her family and friends fiercely.
Our beautiful daughter Bella was 23 years old and had recently completed studying for a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Government and International Relations. Her passions were human and animal rights, and 2023 was going to be her year to start making the impact on the world she always dreamt of.
Tragically, Bella never got to attend her graduation or see Christmas 2022, and these dreams will never be realised. There were so many more of life’s milestones yet to come, that she will now never get to experience or share with her family and friends.
A week after returning from a girls’ trip to Bali to celebrate the end of her studies, Bella walked into hospital in the early hours of the morning with flu-like symptoms, which she thought might have been COVID.
Once there, she rapidly became critically ill, and the doctors eventually diagnosed her with bacterial meningitis. Within hours our lives were shattered by the devastating news that Bella had suffered extensive brain damage and was not expected to survive.
The doctors told us that Bella had contracted meningococcal B, which caused the deadly meningitis.
Like most young adults her age, Bella had been immunised for meningococcal in high school, so we were confused about how this could have happened.
We later found out that the national immunisation program schedule does not include the deadly meningococcal B strain, although a vaccine for the B strain is available if you know about it and can afford to pay for it. It was also later that we discovered that meningococcal B is now the most prevalent strain in Australia.
The morning before going to hospital, Bella had a temperature, which came down to normal after taking Panadol and Nurofen. There was no rash, no headache, no stiff neck. None of the classic signs to alert us to what was really going on.
As is the case for many other people who contract meningococcal, by the time a diagnosis is made, it’s too late to avoid serious neurological damage, loss of limbs or death. The only effective prevention for these tragic outcomes is vaccination.
However, at over $200 for the required two doses of the meningococcal B vaccine, and with a lack of awareness in the community about this hidden danger, it remains either out of reach or out of mind for the vast majority in the community.
Only South Australia includes meningococcal B in its vaccination program, meaning that most of our young people in Australia remain at risk of catching this dreadful disease.
Bella was a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, student, work colleague and legal-aid volunteer.
This tragedy has not just affected the immediate family.
It has affected hundreds of people throughout an entire community: a devastated extended family; traumatised friends who have never experienced such loss in their young lives; school and university communities where she was known and loved; her workplace where counsellors needed to be brought in to support staff with their loss, and people left because they can no longer work there without her presence; hospitals having to provide trauma counselling to their staff after such a tragic event.
A sudden death like this sends shockwaves that resonate far wider and longer than anyone can imagine.
Bella’s loss will not just go away overnight; it will have a profound everlasting effect on so many lives.
We are so grateful to have cherished Bella in our lives for her short 23 years. There are so many happy memories we can share.
She taught us many things, but by far the most important lesson is to unapologetically live your life.
Do what you want and don’t put things off. Work hard, but enjoy your life and live it to the fullest.
Bella epitomised joy for life and we feel so blessed that she was able to have so many wonderful experiences and adventures during her short time here on earth.
We take comfort in telling stories and keeping her spirit alive.
She still shines brightly in all our hearts.