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Donna's story

24th February 2018

Thirty-one-year-old Donna, from Brotherton in North Yorkshire, was getting ready for Christmas when she fell ill with a severe headache. She thought it was a migraine to begin with but as her symptoms worsened she was rushed to hospital. Tests showed she had contracted viral meningitis. She tells her story here

Donna's story

“On Sunday evening of 17 December I started with a headache.

"I have three children, Sophie aged 7, Isabella aged 3 and my baby Charlotte aged 10 months, so I really thought I was worn out from getting ready for Christmas and because everyone had been ill.

“I went to bed, woke up on the Monday with a headache still and a stiff neck but just carried on and did my usual routine of taking the girls to nursery and school. By the time I got home my head was getting worse. I put it down to sleeping funny on my neck, ignored it and went back to bed.

“I woke up four hours later and my head was still hurting and my eyes were very sensitive to the light. I rang my husband Ben at work and told him he would need to come home as I couldn’t pick the kids up as I knew driving would be out of the question. I then rang my mum and told her I had what I thought was a migraine and needed some painkillers and could she ring the doctors.

Crying in pain

“Shortly after my mum rang and said the doctors are full and just to take migraine tablets from over the counter. As the day went on my head was getting so bad I phoned the doctors myself and was crying in pain. Luckily they got me an appointment. When I went they advised me that I had a migraine.

“I called in at my mum and dad’s on the way back and both my parents looked at me in horror. My mum thought I looked like I had had a stroke, one side of my face was droopy and I was grey. Anyway, with the doctor’s advice I just went to rest and I spent the rest of the evening in bed.

“On the Tuesday I woke with extreme head pain, shivers and I couldn’t stand loud noises and light. I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours. I went downstairs and lay on the sofa where my husband was keeping an eye on me. I was sleeping all morning and shivering so much that my teeth were rattling together. I wasn’t eating or drinking and I was using an eye mask to keep out the light.

Sent an ambulance

“My husband told me at one point I was crying and asking him to make it go away. He also said he thought I was going in and out of consciousness. I had a drink of Lucozade and projectile vomited all over and that’s when he phoned 111. They sent an ambulance.

“The ambulance came and they advised me they needed to get me to hospital. I lifted my head and was sick again. They helped me into the ambulance and all I remember was them speaking to me and I couldn’t answer. I heard the guy in the back shout to the lady "her pulse rate has dropped to 39, we need the blue lights".

“I woke up then in a room at the hospital being asked if I had rashes, which I didn’t. After the usual tests of blood and blood pressure they advised me I may have meningitis, I just laughed and said it’s a migraine.

So many drips in me!

“They said they would need to do a CT scan, but in the meantime gave me antibiotics and morphine for the pain. I had a CT scan that came back clear and advised me I needed a lumbar puncture, which wouldn’t happen until tomorrow so they were keeping me in overnight. I had that many drips in me I was scared, one for fluid, one for antibiotics, then steroids, paracetamol and morphine! At this point I was a little more relaxed and the pain wasn’t as bad.

“On Wednesday the doctor arrived to do the lumbar puncture and after a lot of pain he said the fluid was clear and he was hopeful it was just a bad migraine. After four hours my doctor came in and said you do have viral meningitis. We were in shock! They let me go home that evening with paracetamol and ibuprofen.

“It was so close to Christmas and the vital advice was to rest. I felt like I ruined Christmas - I was out with family but couldn’t socialise for long before I got tired and we had to go home.

Lovely lady on the phone

“A few weeks passed and I still had mild headaches. I phoned Meningitis Now and spoke to a lovely lady on the phone and explained they were still happening and rest with three kids is not easy. I was crying on the phone to her. She was so lovely and just talked to me and made me realise that even though it’s viral it’s still a serious illness and I’m doing a wonderful job.

“Two months have passed now and I do get an occasional headache, but it’s made me realise never never ignore your body. If my husband hadn’t phoned 111 I don’t know what state I would have been in.”