A DEVASTATED family today paid tribute to a loving mum who died suddenly after falling ill on a school trip.
Karen Cook was taken to hospital after she started feeling unwell on an outing to the New Forest with Newtown Primary School.
But the 41-year-old’s condition took a drastic turn for the worse overnight and she died the next morning.
Doctors believe Karen, from Gosport, was suffering from a rare bacterial infection called toxic shock syndrome.
Her heartbroken husband Paul, 47, of Bridgemary Avenue, said: ‘She was the perfect wife.
‘She was beautiful and very social and happy.’
The couple were together for 26 years and married in 1994.
‘I still can’t believe she is gone,’ said Mr Cook.
‘I couldn’t take it in when they were telling me what was happening to her and two weeks down the line I still can’t.
‘She was studying to become a learning support assistant – she loved children. She absolutely adored our five children – they were her life.’
Karen, pictured on page one in a photo taken 15 years ago chosen by her husband, was a keen MotoGP fan and cook who had just started 12 months of training to become a paid teaching assistant.
Hundreds of people turned up to her funeral at Portchester Crematorium.
She died at Southampton General Hospital on March 5.
Her family now faces an agonising wait for a coroner’s inquest to reveal what exactly caused her death.
Matt Prince, the headteacher of Newtown Primary School, where Karen was a volunteer teaching assistant, said: ‘Her spirit will live on in so many ways.
‘All of us who knew Karen feel proud and privileged to have known her.
‘Karen always had a smile on her face and was willing to help others.
‘We have all reflected on what we have learnt from her approach to life.’
‘She would have taught me all about being a mum’
KAREN Cook was a wonderful mum who was bursting with life.
That’s how the 41-year-old will be remembered by her five children.
Karen is survived by her four daughters Melissa and Sarah, seven, Zoe, 12, Hannah, 18, and son Stuart, 22.
Hannah, who is expecting her own child in August, said: ‘She would have taught me everything about being a mum. I will follow in her footsteps and take on board everything she did for us.
‘I will make sure my child knows what a wonderful mum she was. The legacy she has left is amazing.’
Hannah and her younger sisters said their mum was a terrific cook who enjoyed going out to socialise with her friends.
Melissa added: ‘She was always there for us and everyone else. She was the best mum.’
Zoe wrote a tribute which was read out at her mum’s funeral.
She said: ‘We’re going to miss her but we’re going to stay strong because she would hate to see us cry.’
And sister Sarah added: ‘My favourite thing was that she would have a laugh with us.’
TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME
KNOWN as TSS, toxic shock syndrome is an incredibly rare bacterial infection.
Around 40 people in the country are affected by it every year, but only two or three of those cases will prove fatal.
TSS occurs when bacteria which normally lives harmlessly on the skin invades the bloodstream and releases poisonous toxins.
Men, women and children can get TSS. A significant proportion of cases are found in women and may be due to the use of sanitary products.
There is a good chance of recovery if TSS is diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics.
But if it is not treated in time, the toxins can cause a massive drop in blood pressure.
This results in dizziness, confusion and damage to skin and organs.
It can disturb many vital organ functions which, combined with shock, cause death.