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Denise L's story

15th August 2019

Denise, 54, learnt the hard way that meningitis is no respecter of your age and can affect anyone, when she became ill with pneumococcal meningitis earlier this year

Denise L's story

What started as earache quickly developed, leaving her fighting for her life.

Thankfully she survived but has been left with after-effects and has to make adjustments from her old daily life. Denise, from Patchway in Bristol, tells her story here.

“I’d been ill for around five months, in and out of hospital with high temperatures, earache and having no energy. The doctors tested me for everything except meningitis, putting my illness down to a nasty virus."

“My earache was getting worse and the night before I ended up in hospital everything was fuzzy and my head hurt when people around me talked. I went to bed and woke up in the morning feeling a little better, so we went out."

“About lunchtime I said to my husband, "I’ve got a cracking headache, can you take me home?" That was the last thing I remember."

Woke up five days later

“I woke up five days later in intensive care after being in a coma. My husband kept checking on me throughout the afternoon. He said I was talking to him and telling him I didn’t need hospital, it was just a migraine. Then he heard a thud on the floor and it was me being sick everywhere. My eyes were rolling in the back of my head and he couldn’t get any sense out of me."

“He called an ambulance and they sent a paramedic, who realised quite quickly there was something very wrong. By then they could not get any response from me at all. He called for an ambulance with neurological assistance and it arrived in six minutes."

“They got me into the ambulance and my heart stopped, so they worked on me outside my house for half an hour and thankfully got me back. My husband sat in the waiting room for six hours, not knowing if I was alive."

Trying to stabilise me

“The paramedic did come out sometime in between and explained how poorly I was and they were still trying to stabilise me. They threw every antibiotic at me and treated me for viral and bacterial meningitis until they had the result back that it was bacterial."

“I was in a coma for five days and they told my family they had no idea if I would be able to walk or talk or what level of brain damage I would have if I woke up at all."

“I did wake up and completely lost ten days – I could not remember a thing. I was battered and bruised and very confused but I’m okay. I have severe memory problems, I’m deaf in one ear and my left hand side doesn’t always do what I want it to do. I have to concentrate really hard and I can’t concentrate for long as it really hurts my head. All perfectly normal apparently."

Do feel very lucky

“I do feel very lucky as it could have been so much worse. I’m struggling to get over the shock of it all and how my family must have felt. You always associate meningitis with the young but it definitely has no discrimination against age."

“The support from Meningitis Now has been so helpful. Just knowing you are not on your own gives great comfort."

“But meningitis has had a huge impact. I’m not the same person, I can’t do things now I used to do. I’m unable to work full-time, I can only manage two days a week. My husband is scared to leave me in case he comes home to me being ill again."

“And my hair fell out from the trauma that my body went through. I had to have it all cut off. It’s growing back now but I found that devastating as it was coming out in handfuls."

“It’s a very frightening disease and it comes on so quickly. It’s like ‘boom’ and as a family we feel like this bomb just went off and changed everything."