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Charlotte H's story

15th September 2015

In February 2015, Charlotte Hannibal, had just returned to university after visiting her family when she suffered a number of flu-like symptoms including feeling cold, shivering, a sore throat, and a bloating feeling in the stomach

Charlotte H's story

Charlotte spent 17 days in an induced coma and awoke unable to remember what had happened to her.

It was then she learnt that she had contracted meningococcal group W meningitis and septicaemia. She tells her story here.

“After returning to university from a family weekend at home, I attended all my Monday lectures and classes feeling as healthy as ever. But, by Tuesday morning I was ringing my parents asking if I could come home - I felt unwell but thought I just had a common flu.

My symptoms included feeling cold, shivering, and a sore throat.”

My symptoms quickly deteriorated 

“My father came to pick me up and take me home where I slept, but I woke up in the middle of the night vomiting and my symptoms persisted right through to Wednesday morning.

By Wednesday afternoon my parents made the decision to call the local GP for some advice, but after being greeted by an answerphone message saying the practice was closed for training, they turned to 111. They were advised to visit their closest walk-in centre so I could be seen.

Upon arriving at the walk-in health centre at Kingsmill Hospital at 4:17pm I had a lack of energy and was unable to walk. My parents hired a wheelchair to get me inside but little did anyone know, this would be the last time I would ever stand on my own two feet.”

I was told to say goodbye to my family

“After an hour of waiting I was seen by a doctor, who after a five minute discussion sent me straight through to A&E. By 6:30pm I had suffered from complete organ failure and had only just developed a slight rash on my eyelids.

The medical staff made the decision to put me into an induced coma, so I was told to say goodbye to my family, and just hoped that when I awoke I would feel much better.

At first I was diagnosed with leukaemia due to my high count of white blood cells. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I was correctly diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia.”

I was unable to remember being ill

“During the time I was asleep I fought for my life and eventually began to fight off the infection. After 17 days, and now being treated at Nottingham City Hospital, I was woken up and told exactly what had been happening to me over the past few weeks.

I was left with severe memory loss so was unable to remember being ill at all. My hearing was also damaged, and at this stage, I was unable to move anything but my eyes and mouth. But it was my first step towards recovery.”

I’m grateful to be alive

“I spent a total of 27 days in intensive care and 12 weeks on a burns and plastics ward. I had both legs amputated below the knee and lost all my fingers on my left hand.

On the 15th of June I was finally able to stay at home for the first time since February.

Due to severe scarring, my kidneys no longer work at the necessary rate, so I will be on dialysis every night until a kidney transplant can be achieved. Whilst I still have to attend multiple rehabilitation appointments, and spend four days a week at the hospital, I’m very grateful to be alive and well.”

Starting in August this year, all 17 - 18-year-olds and first year university students in the UK are being offered a free vaccine which protects against meningococcal A, C, W and Y bacteria.