Georgia's experience

26th January 2016

In September last year, 23-year-old Georgia was travelling the world. Going it alone with just a rucksack on her back, she was filled with enthusiasm, excitement and the desire to explore

Georgia letterbox FFN
But, just three days after arriving in China, her trip of a lifetime soon took a downward spiral when she contracted meningitis. 

We spoke to Georgia after her ordeal. Unable to remember first-hand what happened to her, she told us what her friends and family have told her:

“It was 4th September and I had been in China three days before I was hit by meningitis, and had overlooked, what I can only assume were symptoms, as jetlag and dehydration."

“I felt headachey and sick but continued as much as I could. But, on the third night the headache/sickness had become a lot worse. I skipped dinner and booked myself into a private room instead of the 12 bed dorm I was staying in.”

Georgia messaged home to let her parents know she was unwell then had an early night, falling asleep at 6pm and not waking until a friend knocked on her door at 11am. She spent the day drifting in and out of sleep, feeling unable to join in with the activities at her hostel. 

With the fear that she was wasting the time she had in China, Georgia decided to join the evening’s activities.

“Everyone was going cormorant fishing but when I was on the boat in the dark, I was unable to focus on what was happening around me or distinguish the voices from my friends. I could only focus on how my head was about to explode by the brightness of the boats headlight."

“When the fishing did finally end, we began making our way back to the taxi. I paced ahead, but my hearing suddenly disappeared into complete silence, my vision was blurred but I could see the world flipping in front of me. A rush of numbness took over my legs before I fainted."

“My friend (who I met in China) and our tour guide, Sally, have told me what happened next as they stayed with my throughout.”

Georgia was taken back to the hostel, unaware of who anyone was or what was going on around her. She was drifting in and out of consciousness and violently sick. She soon began fitting but because she was staying in such a remote location of China, medical help was slow to arrive. 

“Everyone was begging for me to stay awake, covering me in wet towels, and trying to get water into me believing it could be severe dehydration. When medical help did finally arrive, they didn’t own a stretcher so carried me to the ambulance in a body bag."

“I was taken to a hospital, which my friend tells me was so poor and so horrendous that there is no possible way you could call it a hospital. She said I continued to be sick, going in and out of consciousness, fitting multiple times, and lashing out (extremely unlike me). She was apparently handed a dirty bin which had other patients’ blood etc. in it for me to be sick in and she had to use her anti-bac hand gel to clean me as the doctors did not have anything."

“I had all the immediate tests that they were able to do here, but apparently this was only done because money was the incentive and she was crying and shouting hysterically at them to help me."

“She said I was in such an uncontrollable way that the doctors were unable to fit the drip into me as I was ripping it out, and in the end they had to talk her through how to do it as I would only allow her near me (I guess because she had a familiar voice)."

“Having spoken to my doctors at home and researching meningitis, I strongly believe that she saved my life having done this. By this point I was out cold, and the current hospital was unable to deal with me so I was transferred to a hospital in Guilin (approx. 2 hours away).”

Upon reaching the second hospital, Georgia’s parents were called and immediately boarded a flight to Hong Kong. They were told she was suffering from encephalitis and water on the brain.

Georgia regained consciousness on 6th September. She was told she needed a lumbar puncture but refused the operation due to poor facilities at the hospital. 

Shortly afterward, Georgia was transferred to a hospital in Hong Kong where her parents were waiting and she learnt that she had contracted meningitis. 

“Through family friends we were advised of a private neurologist who I was seen by, and it was here that we first learnt that what I had was in fact meningitis and I was taken to an isolation unit."

“By now it was 9th September and I had been on a drip continuously. I had the lumbar puncture, with two doctors and five nurses, giving me the proper attention and cleanliness i needed, and an MRI and CT scan. As it had been so long and I had so much medicine already in me they were unable to determine what strain of meningitis I had. However, I remained in the Hong Kong isolation hospital for 10 days.”

When discharged, Georgia was unable to walk due to a lack of strength or energy . It was some time before she could fly home with her family.

“My hearing was also affected. I have never remembered what happened and I lost my memory of small things, such as my phone password. I still have not remembered them and I suffered from daily headaches for quite some time. 

“I have also had severe back pain, and am currently having physio and meeting with a consultant. I have been left with fatigue, anxiety and nightmares. Throughout all this time it never quite sunk into me the ordeal I had been through. Looking back and writing it out makes it feel so unbelievable that such a frightening illness can happen to anyone, and in such a place as I was. I cannot believe how lucky I have been.”