Charlotte S’s experience

21st October 2015

University of Cambridge student Charlotte was like any other 19-year-old fresher studying Architecture. She was independent; working part time, studying, living with friends and enjoying uni life

Charlotte Stuart
One evening she began to feel unwell – just a headache and sickness – nothing that indicated to her that she was seriously ill. The next day, her temperature had soared and her blood pressure dropped. Worried, her mum dialled 999.

It wasn’t until she got to A & E that a rash appeared and she was rushed to ICU and put into an induced coma. Charlotte woke up two weeks later to find out she had contracted meningococcal group W (Men W) meningitis and septicaemia, and, as a result, a number of her toes were amputated. 

Charlotte tells us how it felt to wake up and find her life had completely changed:

“Waking up and coming to terms with my situation took a long time. It was devastating.”

“Having just completed my first year at university it was very tough to accept that I wouldn’t be living with my friends or continuing to study my degree and that my independence was non-existent.”

“I found myself unable to eat, drink or talk due to a tracheostomy. I was too weak to move as I had lost nearly two stone in muscle and I couldn’t concentrate on the simplest of things. Watching TV and reading was too much to focus on.”

“Losing any part of your body is emotionally traumatic - I lost some toes. Almost a year on, this doesn’t feel quite as important as it’s not stopping me from doing many of the things I could do before.”

“It has been a long journey and life is not completely back to normal but I have come to accept what has happened. More than anything I am so grateful to the wonderful NHS staff who looked after me, thankful for the love and support from my family and friends, and so appreciative for the ongoing help I receive from my counsellor which has been facilitated by Meningitis Now.”

“With their help I have still had fun this year and have many happy memories, despite the physical limitations I had to deal with. They have helped me to regain control of my life and I am looking forward to returning to university.”

A vaccine is now available to all 17 to 18-year-olds and all university entrants, aged 19-25, free on the NHS, providing protection against A, C, W and Y bacteria. 

Charlotte had the following advice:

“Meningitis acts incredibly fast. The day before I was in hospital I had been at work feeling perfectly healthy. Thankfully they caught it early on, reducing the severity of my long term after-effects.”

“To all prospective and current students, I implore you to get the ACWY vaccine and be aware of the symptoms of meningitis.”

“This past year I have learnt how strong I can be finding a greater inner-confidence and a better perspective on life. But in no way what so ever would I want to relive having meningitis.”

“It took my independence, my energy, attacked my brain, put the life I had planned on hold and so nearly took my life all together.” 

What is the Men ACWY vaccine?