Meningitis Now staff member Scarlett

Jemima's experience

Scarlett Mills 10th March 2017

Jemima, a student at the University of St Andrews, Fife, thought she had flu when she woke up one October morning with a headache and high temperature.


In reality she had contracted meningitis, and after five long months of recovery and rehabilitation she is slowly starting to get her life back on track.

“I woke up on Tuesday 11th October, shivering but feeling hot and I had a headache. I did not have a stiff neck, a rash, nor was I photophobic. I thought I had flu, so I took paracetamol and ibuprofen and stayed at home.

“The following day, after initially feeling pretty ropey, my headache disappeared and my temperature seemed okay, so I decided to go out to a work related event in the early evening. However, I did not last long as I soon began to feel really unwell and so returned to my flat. In fact I felt so ill that I called my mum, who was luckily visiting me in St Andrews.

“I now was very hot, the headache was back, my limbs were cold to the touch and I couldn't walk in a straight line! An ambulance was called and I somehow managed to stumble into the ambulance, but from this point on my memory becomes a little blurred, and so some of the following details have been provided by my mum.

“On the journey to Ninewells Hospital the ambulance had to stop so that the paramedics could administer IV fluids as my blood pressure was so low. My temperature was now 41.5°C. Once in hospital my condition continued to deteriorate. No one knew what exactly was wrong, so a concoction of antibiotics was prescribed.

“My recollection of this time is not too clear, but I do remember being in agony as all my muscles went into spasm. The pain was unbearable and I begged the medics to make it stop and to knock me out; they duly obliged.

“After several hours of further deterioration I was admitted to intensive care. I was anaesthetised and so was blissfully unaware of what followed; for I had contracted bacterial meningitis W and septicaemia. I was in an induced coma for the following ten days.

Multiple organ failure

“Shortly after being anaesthetised I flat-lined. It took two courses of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to restore my heart to sinus rhythm - a very close call! I had multiple organ failure - my kidneys failed, my liver failed and I could not maintain my own blood pressure; some of the skin on my limbs died, and I needed to breathe 85% oxygen to get enough oxygen into my bloodstream.

“Amputations and skin grafts were discussed. Although I was not aware of all this, my family were. They had to suffer, wonder if I would live, how I would cope with any disability - it was very traumatic for all of them.

“For me the worst things happened after I regained consciousness!  Waking up took about 12 hours (but seemed like a lifetime). During this time I experienced horrible hallucinations. I could hardly move and I was attached to so many machines and I had to start to come to terms with what had happened.

Learn to walk again

“A couple of days after I had come round I was moved to a renal ward. I had regular dialysis, I had to learn to walk again and I was continually exhausted. Physiotherapy, dressings and dialysis were my life for the next two weeks. It seemed relentlessly repetitive and far too slow (to me!). Fortunately for me my kidneys improved enough to be allowed home to Suffolk, England, and so after a month in hospital I was discharged – Thursday 10 November, to be precise.

“Once at home I continued to have dressings appointments (and still do four months on), I attend renal appointments and will not find out if I have any permanent kidney damage for another month.

“I have now returned to university and am getting my life back, after five long months. I have even got back to playing tennis, which I love, and appreciate that I have been really lucky; I have had all the love and support of my family, godparents and friends.

“I cannot express my gratitude enough to these people, to the paramedics who instinctively decided to take me to hospital, and to all the staff at Ninewells Hospital who worked so hard to save me. I truly am so grateful and indebted to them. I feel incredibly humbled by the care and kindness of the hospital staff.

“My four weeks in hospital dragged so much, and there were times when I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, perseverance, love, support and the hard work of the medical staff carried me through.

“I have learnt so much about patience, trust, humanity and humility. I feel truly honoured, humbled and blessed by this experience, and I shall endeavour to apply the lessons learnt in a positive manner to lead a healthy and worthwhile life.”