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Keeley's story

24th March 2015

It was a normal day in August 2011 and Keeley, then aged 24, had woken up feeling great. But, just hours later, she developed a severe headache and then collapsed. It was the start of a meningitis battle that continues to this day. Keeley takes up her story

Keeley's story

“It was a normal day and I'd woken up feeling great. I was working at a hotel on the Isle of Skye, Scotland and started at 7am.

By 8.30am though I'd developed a severe headache and found myself hiding from the light. I then collapsed in the hotel reception.

I was sent home and taken to the local GP surgery, where I was told I had cluster migraines and labyrinthitis, and was sent home with antibiotics.

Over the course of the next few hours I deteriorated rapidly, becoming extremely photophobic, constantly being sick and aching. I had a high fever, became delirious and confused, and the pain in my head was unbearable - it felt like somebody was squeezing my brain between their hands and crushing my skull.

At 7am the next morning I received a phone call from the GP claiming she wasn't happy with the diagnosis and she wanted to see me immediately. She came to the house about 15 minutes later. By this point I had no idea what was going on. I had no sense of balance, wasn't aware of anything going on around me and was still in excruciating pain with my head."

My organs were closing down

“She gave me a penicillin jab and rang for an ambulance. I was taken to the local medical centre and hooked up to a lot of machines. Apparently my organs were closing down and I didn't have long.

After a couple of hours there they managed to stabilise me and I was transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, two hours away. I was put into isolation in a dark room and hooked up to IVs.

After eight lumbar punctures it was confirmed that I had meningitis. I was in hospital for a further three weeks, then sent home with medication to rest. It was then that I realised something was wrong with my legs. I couldn't move them or bear my weight."

18 months in a wheelchair

“I moved back home to Hereford and was put back under the care of my childhood doctor. I was referred to Hereford Hospital for an MRI of the brain and spine, which was clear. I was then tested for MS which was also clear. After 18 months in a wheelchair it was discovered I'd also had encephalitis, which was initially undetected because the meningitis was so bad.

I had been left with an acquired brain injury, which means I have various issues with sight, hearing, concentration, bright lights, fatigue, coordination, tiredness and mobility. The swelling had damaged the pathways from my brain to my legs. I was told I may never walk again.

I tried to walk with crutches for a few weeks in July 2013, but a fall downstairs and a virus set me right back.

Later, I started having private yoga and hydrotherapy sessions and was referred under the care of HABIT (Herefordshire Acquired Brain Injury Team), who provided a specialist team to help support me, including a neuro physiotherapist. In April 2014 I started walking short distances again on walking sticks and in September 2014 I started university studying a BSc Hons in Forensic Science and Anthropology."

Hoping to walk full time

“I'm still juggling between the walking sticks and wheelchair but hope to be walking with the sticks full time by the end of this year.

Reading over other people's stories on the Meningitis Now website has made me understand more and feel more supported. I don't feel so alone with my symptoms anymore.

I’ve tried to do my part for charity since it all happened, to give something back but also to motivate myself so I don’t give up. It can be mentally draining at times, especially when I feel my progress has stopped.

If my story inspires just one person not to give up then it is worth sharing.”