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Karolina's story

12th March 2019

After three weeks of headaches, Karolina, from Southampton, was told by her doctor that she probably had an allergy. Not long after things got a lot worse until eventually she ended up in hospital

Karolina's story

This was the start of a very difficult nine months. Here, 25 year-old Karolina tells her story.

“I get migraines, so headaches are quite usual for me. This time I had about three weeks of headaches that didn’t stop with painkillers, a rash, nausea and I was really tired. I was told by the doctor that it was just an allergy, advised to take antihistamines and that there was nothing to worry about.

“On the day it happened, I had been shopping in a different town, then with my daughter at her friend’s birthday party. It was a really active day and I was quite ok compared to the weeks and days before.

“Suddenly, my headache became so bad, very unusual, and I felt there must be something wrong. We went home, I took more painkillers and went to bed. I am a single parent, on my own with my daughter so had to look after a three-year-old. But I was in so much pain, all over my body, that I was waking up at night and was not able to walk, even when I was taking deep breaths.

“My headache was just getting worse and worse. I went to bed again, woke up with stiffness in my neck, blurred vision, I was really sore and unable to walk. I was scared that I was going to die as I felt this way and had a toddler to look after. I called 111 and was told that I had to come to an appointment in two hours time.

“I called my friend, he came to look after my daughter, helped me to dress up and brought me to the taxi. It was so hard as I couldn’t even sit down properly.

“The 111 doctor told me it was just a throat infection but she wanted me to go to A&E as my face didn’t look right (at this point my face was dropping down, and I wasn’t able to lift my hands up) and sent me to the other hospital by the taxi (I still don’t know how I made it!).

Started having convulsions

“When I was waiting on A&E, my sister came to see me. I saw the shock on her face as I’d never been in a state like that. While I was sitting there, I started having convulsions - my tongue was paralysed and I wasn’t able to talk. They took me to the triage, then to do a CT of my head as by the way it looked, they weren’t sure if it was meningitis or stroke.

“I don’t quite remember the next two days but one of the doctors said it was just the migraine. Then I had two lumbar punctures. The first attempt failed - the nurse that was doing it wasn’t able to get the fluid even though he tried five times, with three anaesthetics. I was screaming in the room as they didn’t work at all and I later found out that my spinal nerves had been damaged.

“Before the second try, I was given two doses of morphine and additional anaesthetics. I passed out during the procedure but the doctor that was doing it finally made it.

“A couple of hours later, in the middle of the night, I was moved to the isolation ward. First I was told it was bacterial, but then luckily they found out it was only viral meningitis.

“I spent five days in hospital, and was on morphine because I couldn’t handle the pain I was in. I didn’t see my daughter for two weeks, she had had to stay with my family as I wasn’t able to look after her. I wasn’t even able to walk afterwards - when I was discharged from hospital, I still had difficulties walking.

“I was only given a week off sick note, then went back to work for two days. I felt sick as I knew it might be too early then went off sick again for a month to make a full recovery.

“It’s nine months on and I’m still having problems with memory. I can’t concentrate on many things, and I have problems with dealing with so much stuff. I feel really tired sometimes, headaches are just so bad, pain in my back as well.”