A HAMPSHIRE artist left blind after a “catastrophic” bout of meningitis which nearly killed her has launched a £1m High Court battle against the GP she claims failed to spot her illness.

Julie Coakley collapsed at her home in January 2008, then plunged into a deep coma during which her family were warned to “expect the worst”.

The court heard how the 48-year-old survived but with "severe disabilities including total blindness, partial deafness, balance problems and a facial palsy”.

Mrs Coakley, attending court flanked by her husband and guide dog Otis, is suing Dr Henrietta Rosie, who saw her at a doctors surgery near Winchester at the time.

The court was told how, despite a crushing headache, the 48-year-old drove to the surgery where the GP examined her throat, glands, neck and chest, diagnosed an upper respiratory infection and prescribed "bed rest and plenty of fluids".

Daily Echo:

Gratton Surgery, in Sutton Scotney, near Winchester, where Dr Rosie worked

Mrs Coakley, of Goldfinch Way, South Wonston, claims a vivid rash - a telltale sign of potentially deadly meningococcal meningitis - had spread over parts of her body which Dr Rosie looked at but didn't inspect closely with her finger tips.

Mrs Coakley managed to drive back home after her appointment but, five hours later, husband David found her collapsed and unconscious in her bedroom.

She received her first dose of penicillin around 11pm that night, the court heard, but by that time had already lapsed into a deep coma.

The court was told how the mother-of-two described herself as haunted by the rash's "vivid port red colour" because it was the last thing she ever saw.

The High Court was told how Mrs Coakley is suing the doctor, who practised at the Gratton Surgery, Sutton Scotney, "for failing to examine her rash properly and treat her with antibiotics which she alleges would have prevented her disabilities".

The court heard how Dr Rosie denies liability, maintaining she carried out a comprehensive examination and that her patient showed no obvious signs of meningitis at the time.

The GP insists that the rash had no identifiable link to meningitis, also disputing that it appeared as Mrs Coakley describes it.

Her lawyers are adamant her diagnosis made "no difference to the outcome".

In an Echo interview before the trial Mrs Coakley told how she became ill during the final year of her course at Farnham University College of Creative Arts.

She went on to gain a First Class degree in 3D design but feels she has never achieved her potential as an artist.

“For an artist to lose their sight is horrifying,” she said.

“I would rather have lost my limbs and lived my life in a wheelchair. For weeks I couldn't even say the word 'blind', I'd just say I can't see.

“I kept trying to look at objects I knew were there. I would hold a cup and stare at it, but see only darkness.”

The case is due to last for two weeks.