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Alison N's Story

5th April 2024

Alison, 33, from Hawkinge in Kent, fell ill with memory loss, confusion and tiredness in February. A lumbar puncture confirmed meningococcal meningitis and she spent the next three weeks in hospital, much of it in a coma. She has fortunately avoided severe after-effects and now, with her husband and son, is trying to find answers to what happened to her, as she tells us here.

Alison N's Story

“I didn’t know a lot about meningitis before having it and never would have thought it would happen to me.”

“I came home from work early on the Wednesday (7 February) as I felt ‘off’. I came straight home and went to bed. After getting home I can’t remember much more."

“I normally do the school runs but I can’t remember waking up on the Thursday. Luckily, my husband was home from work and did the school run for me. He ran me a bath when he got back and said he noticed a rash on my bum, but thought nothing of it until I got in the bath with my clothes on. He said I just looked blank; there wasn’t a reaction on my face.

“He got me out of the bath and into bed and called 999. The ambulance arrived very quickly and the paramedics diagnosed meningitis. I was rushed to A&E and my family were told they were 99% sure it was viral, but they would do a lumbar puncture to make sure. After the lumbar puncture it was confirmed that it was bacterial meningitis.

Moved to critical care

“I was moved to the critical care unit and put into a coma for eight days. When I was woken up I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t know why I was in hospital. I woke up hooked up to multiple machines, a catheter, cannulas inserted and had a tracheotomy. I couldn’t speak.

“It wasn’t until I’d been in hospital for around two weeks that my trachy was changed to a smaller one and a speaking valve put on that I could finally communicate. Shortly after it was changed to the smaller one the whole thing was removed and I was left with a hole in my throat. A day after it was all removed I was sent home with dressings and shown how to keep the trachy hole clean.

“I was in hospital for a total of 21 days and in all honesty I can’t remember a lot of it. Yes, I was in a coma but when I was woken I got an infection which made me confused and delirious again. It was a vicious cycle.

Left me with questions

“I didn’t know a lot about meningitis before having it and never would have thought it would happen to me.

“The whole experience has left me with a lot of questions. Where did I get it from? Why can’t I remember? Will it come back?

“I was very worried when I left hospital, my physical strength wasn’t great but I could walk. Stairs were and are still my nemesis, but I am getting stronger each day. There is no set time for recovery. I honestly thought I’d bounce back and be done with it all but I was wrong. Physio visited me a few times in hospital and once I had walked up the hospital stairs I was signed off. When I got home and tried to conquer the stairs it was a struggle. I stopped halfway for a breather. It’s surprising how much it takes out of you.

Son become very clingy

“I have a 6-year-old son. He has been great but obviously it hit him not having his mum for three weeks and when he saw me (when I was awake) I was on machine and couldn’t speak. He has become very clingy to me now but I think he understands mummy needs time to heal so can’t go racing up the stairs. He has adapted well but I am awaiting all the questions he will have that I probably won’t have the answers to as I don’t know everything that happened either.

“This experience has hit us all. Myself and my husband are still piecing bits together, trying to work out what happened. I have a version in my head (when I was in a coma) which never happened, my mind has made up a whole story with various scenarios that never happened. It has been confusing trying to get my head around what was real and what wasn’t.

“I am lucky to not have any after-effects from meningitis, but this isn’t always the case.

Needs more publicity

“In all honesty, meningitis needs more publicity so people can understand what it is and what to look for. I have read so much about meningitis since leaving hospital.

“In my case, I had a rash on my feet, legs and bum, tiredness and confusion, but this may not be the same for everyone. If my partner had not ran a bath and I had not got in the bath he could have left me sleeping in bed for however long and my story could have had a very different ending.

“I am grateful for all the help I received – the paramedics, nurses, doctors, physio, speech and language, ENT etc. Without them I wouldn’t be able to share my experience.

“Since my illness my husband and son have become very clingy, but have also appreciated more what I do in and around the house. We have all learnt not to worry about the small things as things like meningitis can strike at any time and turn your world upside down.”