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Holly J's story

17th June 2019

Holly, from Cambridgeshire, was on her way to Norway on a work trip when she started to feel ill. She managed to get to the airport and through security but collapsed before making it on to the plane

Holly J's story

In the next few hours she came close to losing her life. Here Holly tells her story.

“My full name is Holly Jackson, I am 24 years old and I contracted bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in January 2017 on my way to Norway with a work trip.

“It started off with a pain in my groin, that’s when I started noticing that I felt unwell and I started to get what I thought was a migraine. I asked my friend if I could borrow her sunglasses and ironically on the coach everyone started to tell jokes of how I looked very glam and celeb-like being sat there on the coach with sunglasses on. I was laughing at myself too until I got off the coach.

“At this point, when I got off the coach, I knew I didn't feel 100% and was starting to feel really shaky. I managed to get to the check-in desk but was becoming really anxious due to how unstable I felt like I was becoming. I collapsed moments later.

“My friends got me up and I went to sit down. I thought maybe because I hadn't eaten yet it was because of this, so I decided to plough on through security. But I’d started shaking rapidly and I had a dull ache all the way up my spine and into the back of my neck.

“Once we got through security, I couldn't walk any further. I sat myself down on a bench and the paramedics were called to see if I was even ok to fly. After checking me over and after me arguing a lot with them, they deemed me unfit to fly.


“I was so annoyed and kept saying to them I was ok, but my manager agreed that it would be best to go to hospital to get checked out and if I was all ok, then we would fly back the next morning. I remember at this point texting my boyfriend and mum saying I wasn't on the plane and I was making my way to Peterborough Hospital, which was about a one hour taxi journey.

“We finally arrived at the hospital and I was starting to feel as though I couldn't even stand up straight. I was given a wheelchair but left for an hour or so in the waiting room to be seen. All I kept saying to my boyfriend was, "I want to lie down, I need to go home to lie down, that’s all I want to do".

“Finally the doctor saw me and a number of tests were done. I was told to go home. My ketone levels were high but they said, "All you need to do is go home and get something to eat and get some sleep" so that’s exactly what I did. We grabbed some chicken nuggets from McDonalds and headed home, but I threw up violently on the way. I still knew something wasn't right as my sick didn't look normal, I didn't feel normal. I got home and went straight to bed.

“I woke up at 5:00am. This time my head was throbbing, it felt as though my head needed cracking. The pressure was out of this world and I couldn't stop throwing up. My eyes were so sensitive to light and I ordered Matty to keep all the lights off but to go and get my mum (we still lived at home at this point luckily). Mum came running in and turned the lights on and this is when she saw the rash that had started to form on my left arm and inside my legs. She called 111 and they told her I needed medical assistance urgently.

“The ambulance was called and arrived within 11 minutes (it’s usually a 25 minute drive). I couldn't stand, I was in nothing but my underwear crawling around the room leaning my head on anything that felt comfortable. The paramedics turned up and dragged me into the ambulance after administering penicillin (doctors later on said this saved my life).

Wanted the pain to stop

“I can’t remember much else apart from crying to my mum saying I just wanted the pain to stop but I didn't want to die. I woke up a few times whilst in a white room where I remember seeing a number of other patients in the emergency department. All of us fighting for our lives, it was so scary and my mum was crying. My underwear was cut off me and I was wheeled in for a number of different scans to check that my brain hadn't yet suffered any long-term damage. I was so lucky.

“A few days later I was in intensive care in a separate room to others on the ward, with everyone around me masked up. It was only then that I found out how lucky I was and how close I had come to losing my life. If it wasn't for the paramedic that arrived at my mum’s house and gave me penicillin the doctors said I wouldn't have made it, having only three hours left to live.

“I was in intensive care for eight days and then discharged myself from hospital. I was desperate to get home but looking back now this wasn't the right thing to do. I travelled back to hospital twice a day for two weeks for IV drips. There were a couple of after-effects that I had noticed, including reduced hearing, and my confusion levels were at an all time high, my balance was completely knocked and I cried every single day for around three or four months. This reduced eventually and went down to a few times a week, but it affected my confidence, my short term memory and I stuttered.

"Three months after coming out of hospital, one of my close friends working for the paramedic department for Peterborough found out who the paramedic was. I met with the man and it was the most surreal experience ever. He told me that he actually went against protocol by giving me that medication on site which I couldn't believe.

"The after-effects I deal with now are:

  • Memory loss
  • Get tired easily
  • Anxiety levels
  • Agitated easier than before
  • Fear of public transport/crowded areas due to germs etc (I tackle this on a daily basis - I've got massively better at coping, but it was a real struggle to start off with)
  • Fear of falling ill again at even the first stage of a headache
  • Hearing is still affected
  • Severe neck pain when I get tired, my head gets so heavy

"Apart from that I made a full recovery, which I thank my lucky stars for EVERY DAY."