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Gemma M's story

2nd January 2020

Gemma had a range of symptoms including fever, sickness, photophobia, a very bad head pain, stiff neck and confusion. The 21-year-old from Basildon in Essex had contracted viral meningitis

Gemma M's story

Now, two years on, she’s feeling much better but still has bad days, as she tells us here.

“I started feeling unwell about two days before I went to hospital. I felt like I had the flu. I was very sleepy, with a high fever and started to get a very bad headache.

“On 9 December I felt worse but just thought it was a cold. Early that morning I woke up with the worst pain I have ever felt! I remember touching the top of my head and it felt like a sponge.

“I walked into my parents’ room as I was in so much pain. At this point I was being sick. My mum called 111 and asked for some advice. They asked all sorts of question but it's all very confusing for me at this point – all I can remember is my mum asking, "Gemma, can you move your head down?" I couldn't move my neck at all!

Straight to A&E

“111 sent an ambulance. During this time I began to feel worse so my parents took me straight to A&E. The car ride was awful! I had a blanket over my head as I couldn't bear the sight of any light.

“Once at the hospital it was very hard to walk as the pain in my head was unreal! I got sent straight to the emergency room. I don't remember much from here although I do remember that night I had a lumbar puncture, which was horrible and confirmed that I had viral meningitis.

“I spent two nights in hospital on painkillers and a drip. Once I was home it took me a long time to recover. I found the after-effects hard, such as the dizziness, head pain, feeling exhausted, my whole body aching and sensitivity to light and sound.

Feeling much better

“Two years on I'm feeling much better, but still have bad days. After meningitis I feel I have changed. My way of thinking is different. I now suffer with anxiety but am learning to control it and I’m still sensitive to light if I drive at night, which I try to avoid. I’m also feeling very emotional."

“While I was unwell, being able to call the Meningitis Now Helpline was amazing. I felt like no-one understood how I felt and was feeling very alone. They really helped me feel better, that I wasn’t alone and everything I was feeling was normal."

“Meningitis has had a massive impact on me. Not feeling myself is horrible and it was frustrating. Luckily my family is very supportive.”