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Claire A's story

15th February 2019

What started as a normal Monday morning with what she thought was just a cold took a very nasty turn and by Tuesday Claire, from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, was going downhill fast. Claire, 43, tells us what happened next

Claire A's story

“I went to work on the Monday feeling like I had a cold coming and a slight headache. I'm a carer for disabled children so I don't like to call in sick as this lets the families down."

“I remember by Monday night thinking this is a migraine and I needed to go and lay down. I woke up after a very disturbed night’s sleep thinking this must be a very bad migraine as it hasn't gone. I got my husband to call in for me as I felt awful and really didn't think I was able to cope with work."

“I took regular paracetamol and Ibuprofen alternately but that didn't seem to really work. I managed to eat something in the evening and just thought a good night's sleep would get rid of the headache."

“Tuesday night was much the same, with the headache getting worse. My husband called me in sick again on Wednesday and then worked from home. I just spent the day sleeping on and off – it felt like I had flu. My husband stayed home to send the kids off to school on the Thursday but then had to go into work after."

“I hate being sick as I rarely am so thought work were not going to believe I'd had a headache for three days running. I called the doctors and they said come down. At this point I was unaware I was running a high temperature."

“I don't how I did it but I walked to the doctors. Anyone that might have seen me must have thought I was weird because walking was causing me so much pain and I couldn't look up and into the bright sky."

Burst into tears

“When I went into the doctors my doctor had a medical student (probably had some good experience that day!). She checked me over but looking back I think her reactions showed that she had worked it out. She told me I needed to go to the hospital but I had to get someone to take me. I remember calling my husband at work. When he finally rang me I just burst into tears and said they want me to go to the hospital (I wasn't aware of what they were suspecting at this time)."

“Then things went completely haywire as I remember as soon as I ended the call thinking “I'm going to be sick” and remember trying to run to the toilets. I collapsed in the doorway at that point. Nurses and doctors were running from every direction putting up screens to shield me from everyone's view in the waiting room. I was then taken by ambulance to hospital."

“Within two hours I had a CT scan of my head and a lumbar puncture. I was put on an intravenous drip for antibiotics, antivirals and IV fluids. My temperature was spiking massively. I was put into isolation on a medical ward and was put on 15 minute obs."

“Every time they moved me I just remember crying because I was in so much pain all over my body. In total I was in hospital two weeks on the intravenous antivirals and antibiotics. They sent me for more MRI scans after the first week because things were not settling very quickly and they suspected possible encephalitis. I also came out in a massive rash under my arm which was painful and was suspected to be shingles."

“The doctor said the antivirals I was on would help this anyway. Luckily I was given the all clear for the encephalitis. The two weeks I was in hospital were not good as I wasn't allowed to see my children. My daughter has a serious liver condition and is on immunosuppressants so it was classed too risky for any contact. They made everyone who came into contact with me gown and mask up and wear gloves. Also after the first four days all my intravenous lines kept moving out of my veins, and had to be replaced – my hands, wrists, and arms were black and blue by the end and I was becoming very frightened about having new ones put in."

Occasional headaches

“It took me nearly three months after discharge to finally get back to a phased return to work. I still get occasional headaches and twitchy limbs and stabbing pains in my legs. I’m my own worst enemy though as I don't like to tell people when I'm not feeling well."

“If I had stopped and sought help earlier, I don't think I would have been as ill. I get more anxious about things and my memory is bad sometimes as well. I still keep things to myself as I don't want to bother people and just get on with it.”