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Jenny C's story

20th April 2018

Jenny has been struck down with viral meningitis not once but twice. Now she’s determined to turn the experience into something positive, to prove to herself and her family that she’s on the road to recovery, by taking on a 10k run for us. Jenny, from Livingston in West Lothian, tells her story here

Jenny C's story

“I had been out celebrating my friend’s 40th birthday and didn't feel quite right but carried on and had a good time.

“The next day I thought I just had a hangover, but as the days went on I started to feel worse. I couldn't eat, was very thirsty and felt so sick. My headache got worse and by the fifth day I knew something was seriously wrong when I developed a fever and my hands and feet were like ice.

“I remember saying to my husband that I'd only felt as ill as that once before in my life and that was in 2013 when I had viral meningitis.

“Despite feeling desperately unwell I carried on and I took my 5-year-old daughter to her swimming lesson. I sat watching her swim, praying that it would finish soon so that I could go home to bed. The heat and the noise in the pool were making my head spin and the bright lights were starting to bother me.

Lay under a blanket shivering

“Once her lesson was finished, we got home and I took some painkillers and lay under a blanket shivering. I told my husband that once the children, aged 13 months and 5, were in bed I would go to bed too.

“However, I rapidly started to deteriorate and I just knew then that I had viral meningitis again. It felt exactly the same as the first time. The headache is unmistakable.

“So, we got the girls ready for bed and I phoned NHS24. Immediately on hearing my symptoms they said they were phoning an ambulance for me. It sounds daft now but I remember arguing with the nurse on the phone, saying I didn't want an ambulance, I would get a taxi. I just didn’t want the girls to see their mummy being driven away in an ambulance and upsetting them.

“However, the ambulance arrived within five minutes and I was taken to hospital, where I received amazing care and treatment. Because I'd had viral meningitis before, I felt a bit less scared than the first time and more annoyed that it had dared to come back. I also knew that I had a very long battle ahead of me to recover.

Headaches plagued me for eight months

The effects this time were worse than the first time. I lost my memory. I couldn't remember anything new. I suffered photophobia for months and needed special glasses. I couldn’t tolerate noise of any kind. The headaches plagued me daily for eight months. My GP tried different medications but the side-effects were worse than the illness itself.

“I had been due to go back to work after 12 months maternity leave the same week that I was diagnosed with meningitis. After a further five months off work I was finally able to go back on a phased return. I remember my first day back being horrendous due to the lights and noise. I just wanted to run away and hide somewhere quiet and dark. But I persevered and I'm now back full time and coping much better.

“So, nearly 10 months on and after a very frustrating recovery, I have signed up to do a 10k run in May to raise money for Meningitis Now. It is my way of proving that I can get well again, and saying thank you for the amazing support that the charity has given me.

Support made a huge difference

“Meningitis Now’s support made a huge difference. The complementary therapy was a huge factor in my recovery. The Helpline is invaluable - just to know that someone is there to listen and provide support is a hugely positive thing and also the peer support Facebook page, where you know that others understand what you are going through.

“I'm hoping to raise lots of money from the 10k so that others can benefit from the complementary therapy too.

“People tell me that I am unlucky to have had viral meningitis twice. I think of myself as being very lucky to have survived and recovered from it twice.

“I have tried to turn it into a positive experience too. I am running the 10k not just to raise money but also to let my children see that you can turn a negative health experience into something positive. Whilst I still experience headaches, they are becoming less frequent and I no longer need medication every day. Instead of reaching for painkillers I reach for my trainers and go out for a run. It feels amazing to be able to do it.”