Ryan, who contracted meningitis in 2015 and now has cochlear implants, has recently started blogging on his site Deafinitely Ryan because he has “a lot to share” - but also because he wants to change the way people see meningitis. This includes understanding that the signs and symptoms of the disease don’t always appear in the same way.
“People assume the signs and symptoms come in some kind of order or you should wait for the rash. If you ask someone what meningitis is and how you know you have it, they will probably mention the rash and say only babies get it,” he said.
“I realised that meningitis has its own kind of stereotype but this is not always the case and people need to be aware of exactly what it is and what to look out for. I’m just trying to break that stereotype and that idea of meningitis to as many people as possible”.
Talking about his own story, Ryan said he was out running when he experienced the first symptoms of meningitis. “I even remember the route I took in vivid detail,” he said.
“What I didn’t realise was that the first symptom was about to come. A shooting pain in my head – I stopped and raised my hands and thought ‘just what I need, a headache.”
Ryan said he went home and got into bed when something came over him. “I felt delusional, like I was shut off, not quite there, if you know what I mean,” he said.
“I felt my body temperature heighten but at the same time I felt cold to the bone. I went to call out for someone, but the words never left my mouth.”
The doctor was called although even as he was being checked over Ryan said he didn’t know he was there. He was told he had flu and should rest – but alarm bells were raised at this point he said he had lost his hearing and an ambulance was called.
“When the paramedics arrived, I realised my vision had gone blurry. I could feel myself slipping in and out of consciousness until I was out cold.”
One of the amazing things about Ryan’s story is that his hearing loss could have been what saved his life.
“They mentioned that if I hadn’t gone to hospital within a few hours I would have died. Remember when I said the doctor thought I had flu – it was only when I mentioned my hearing loss that they sent me to hospital. In theory going deaf saved my life”.
Ryan is now 22 and putting his life back together – something he has been helped with by attending one of our Believe & Achieve residential weekends. He said he would certainly recommend attending one of the B&A events and added: “You won’t be disappointed.
“The fact we all have that one thing in common is what brings us together as a group. Keep pushing onwards and upwards because that’s what this group is about.”
And what now for Ryan? As well as the blogging things are definitely on the up – he has a job that he loves and is looking forward to moving out of his home, as well as getting a hearing dog. Next year, he and some of the friends he made on the B&A weekend are planning to raise money for Meningitis Now by doing a skydive.
“I have nothing to lose,” he said. “If I almost lost my life to meningitis than this is nothing compared!”.