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Georgia A's story

26th January 2016

While on her travels in China, 23-year-old Georgia, of Hertfordshire, began suffering with ongoing headaches, dizziness and a general feeling of 'unwell-ness'

Georgia A's story

She put her symptoms down to jetlag and a bit of dehydration but her condition soon took a turn for the worse.

Georgia developed a fever and was suffering from delirium, distorted vision, vomiting, a complete loss of hearing, numbness in her hands and legs. She then began fainting and suffering from seizures. Unbeknown to her, Georgia had contracted meningitis. Still unable to remember what happen next, Georgia recalls her friends account of what happened to her.

"I have always been a keen traveller and during my University summer holiday I had chosen to join an organised trip to explore China. I was excited to be travelling alone, making new friends with similar interests and seeing another part of our world! I arrived and straight away bonded with a fellow traveller, Chloe, and many others. We spent a few days in Hong Kong before moving on to a remote area in mainland, Yangshuo.

"I was just three days into my trip before I was hit by meningitis, and had overlooked what I can only now assume were symptoms as jetlag and dehydration. I had felt headachy and sick since my arrival, but was determined to continue as much as I could. By the third night, my symptoms had become unbearable and I booked myself into a private room as I was struggling in the 12 bed mixed dorm. I texted my mum to let her know how I was feeling and ran myself a cold shower, as unbeknown to me my temperature had soared; I must have subconsciously known that this may be something serious as I removed my password from my phone and asked Chloe to come and get me the next day. I then went to bed and slept for 16 hours straight, only waking when Chloe was banging at my door to try and wake me. The headache had not subsided and I was now getting head rushes and blurred vision. I was gutted to be missing out again while everyone else continued exploring and fun activities so that evening, after another day in bed, I decided to join in with cormorant fishing - a traditional Chinese fishing method at night using birds.

Collapsed unconscious

"I didn't understand what was happening in my head; I was unable to focus on anything or even distinguish the voices from my friends. My only aim was to get through the excursion and back onto mainland where I could then request medical help. Finally the fishing did come to an end and as a group we made our way back to the taxi - it was at this point things took a sudden turn for the worst. My hearing disappeared, putting me in complete silence, my vision became blurred but I could see the world flipping in front of me, and a rush of numbness took over my legs. I then collapsed unconscious.

"From here on I do not have memory of what happened, but have pieced together from accounts of those who stayed with me for as long as possible. Taking into consideration the remote area we were currently staying in, I was taken back to the hostel by taxi while emergency services were called. I'm told I was in and out of consciousness, but did not have any awareness of who anyone was or what was going on around me. I'm told the only thing I was saying was "where are my legs" and "my head my head" and continuously being violently sick. I was then carried to the dorm and laid on the bed, but it was here I began fitting. I was surrounded by fellow travellers who were covering me in wet towels, trying to get water into me, and many just watching helpless.

Saved my life

"Finally medical help arrived, but as they did not own a stretcher I was carried to the ambulance in a body bag. I was then taken to a hospital that was in extremely bad condition, with patients laying on the floor, medical apparatus discarded covered in old blood, and no adequate equipment. Chloe stayed with me and covered me in antibacterial hand gel while I continued to be sick, in and out on consciousness, fitting and suffering from delirium which meant I was lashing out and ripping cannulas out of myself. At one point I was so uncontrollable that the doctors had to talk Chloe through how to fit the drip into me so they could administer antibiotics, saline, etc - having spoken to doctors here in the UK, I strongly believe she saved my life having done this. I also had all the immediate tests that they were able to carry out here.

"Before long, I was completely unconscious and the initial hospital was unable to deal with me and my unknown condition. I was therefore transferred to a hospital in Guilin, two hours away. It was at this hospital that my parents were told I was suffering from encephalitis and water on the brain. The phone was put to my ear so my parents could speak at me, before getting the next available plane to Hong Kong.

"I woke up some days later, I was told my parents were in Hong Kong trying to get to me but were not allowed into China due to strict visa restrictions. I was therefore moved to a Hong Kong hospital, but only saw my parents briefly before I was taken into an isolation unit. I was finally somewhere with the ability to carry out a lumbar puncture, proper MRI and CT scans, and it was confirmed that I had contracted meningitis. Thank goodness I had remained on the drip to help me fight the infection! I remained in the Hong Kong isolation unit for 10 days.

Road to long term recovery

"I was finally discharged and able to be with my parents in a hotel, where we remained for some time. I was wheelchair bound as I did not have the strength or energy to send the message from my brain to my legs to move. I initially suffered with hearing loss, memory loss, body pain and weakness. Eventually I was allowed to fly home, which is where my road to long term recovery really begun.

"I have since been diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes severe body pain along with other symptoms, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, an autoimmune condition, that is believed to have been triggered by the meningitis. I have also been left with severe fatigue, back pain which required regular physio, headaches which have been investigated by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, brain fog and word confusion. I also suffer from anxiety and nightmares. I have changed as a person, I have had to take a career change and I'm unable to do things I once could, but I try to live by the motto - "Don't be defined by tragedy - be shaped by it".

"Throughout all this time, the ordeal I had been through never quite sunk in. Looking back and writing it out makes it feel so unbelievable and has taught me that such a frightening and potentially critical illness can happen to anyone, at any time, and anywhere. Meningitis can strike in an instant, but its impact can last a lifetime. Thanks to the people around me that reacted and treated me quickly, I am one of the lucky ones."