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Arlene B’s story

7th May 2018

Thirty-six-year-old Arlene was newly pregnant when she was struck down with a severe headache

Arlene B’s story

She assumed this was connected to her pregnancy but, as it got worse and worse, doctors arranged for her transfer by air ambulance to Glasgow, where viral meningitis was confirmed.

Fortunately, her pregnancy was unaffected. Arlene, from Campbeltown, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, recounts her experience here.

“I woke up in the morning with a severe headache, but I was eight weeks pregnant and just assumed pregnancy hormones. I spent the day in bed with my 3-year-old daughter Taylor by my side. But as the day went on the headache got worse and worse. I phoned for help mid-afternoon - really to look after my daughter. When my mother-in-law arrived I managed to sleep but woke up with my head feeling worse. I decided to call the doctors at about 5pm. They told me to go straight away. By then I was being sick."

Suspected meningitis

“The GP immediately suspected meningitis or encephalitis and gave me antibiotic injections. I was transferred to my local hospital by ambulance and from there by air ambulance to our nearest major hospital in Glasgow, which is over three hours away by car. I then had a lot of tests including scans and a lumbar puncture. I was given a lot of antibiotics during this time in case of bacterial meningitis. I was so worried about my little baby! The next day it was confirmed that I had viral meningitis. To be honest I didn’t really know the difference before that. It was obviously a relief that it was not life-threatening."

Head hurt so much

“However, it didn’t make my symptoms any better. My head hurt so much and I was being sick all the time. The painkillers I could have didn’t touch the pain. I was hospitalised for eight nights and felt awful the entire time. I missed my little girl’s first day at nursery. However, my little eight-week-old foetus was totally unaffected and is now a 13-month-old boy. I was sick throughout my entire pregnancy. This started when the meningitis did so I’m not sure if it was connected."

Extremely lucky

“I feel like I get tired more easily now but otherwise I have been extremely lucky. The only other thing is that I am now affected by certain lighting, which I wasn’t before. I went back to work after a month. At no point did I develop a rash and only once I was in hospital did lights start to affect me. It was so difficult being pregnant as my concern was my baby and theirs was me. Getting scans on my head was necessary but much more dangerous when pregnant. However, it was decided that the pros outweighed the cons."

Much more aware

“I am so much more aware of meningitis now. My daughter didn’t qualify for the new Men B vaccine so I have had her vaccinated privately. After how ill I felt I could never forgive myself to not get it and for something to happen. My son Keelan qualified through the vaccination programme, which is what brought my attention to this vaccine. I couldn’t have one child vaccinated and one not; that would have felt like I was saying she wasn’t so important by not vaccinating her.”

Arlene and her family

Arlene B meningitis case study