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Kerry's story

23rd February 2015

Kerry MacKinnon thought she was getting a migraine, but as her headache became worse it became clear that she was seriously ill. Here she explains how she survived meningitis

Kerry's story

"I’d been poorly for over a month but just disregarded it and carried on as we do.

I remember telling mum I had a headache and was fed up with coughing, sneezing and having a runny nose. I started to get a stiff neck and by this time every bone in my body was hurting.

I woke up on December 1st with what I thought was the start of migraine. I took some painkillers and carried on with my day. That evening I went to my boyfriend Darren’s to surprise him by putting up his Christmas tree for when he got home from work. While dressing the tree, the pains in my head got a lot worse and my neck started to get very sniff. After I finished the tree I sat down and remember thinking how pretty the tree looked and how much pain I was in. The painkillers I had taken earlier weren’t working.

On our way home, my mum was driving and it was raining hard so we slowed down on the motorway as visibility was bad. We just got past the motorway service station when all of a sudden we were weaving in and out of a four-car pile-up that had just happened ahead of us. I’m not sure how mum managed it but we missed every car. I asked mum to stop the car as I felt sick."

The worst headache ever

"By the time I opened the car door, I had a massive pain in my head. My brain felt like it was trying to come out of the front of my forehead. I’d never felt pain like that before. I just put it down to a migraine and being ill. The headlights of the oncoming cars hurt my eyes and the movement of the car was making me feel sick. I remember saying to mum that I wanted to go to the doctors as I couldn’t take the pain any more. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a bad fear of doctors, nurses, hospitals and needles, so for me to want to go to the doctors is a very big thing and mum knew by then I must be bad. By the time we got home, I had to hold my head as it felt like my forehead was going to explode. The pain was horrendous.

I ate my dinner and told mum I was going to bed to sleep it off. I asked if she minded getting me some painkillers in the morning for migraines. I remember lying on my bed holding my head with my hands, crying in pain. I was thinking of my sister as I lay there trying to sleep. She was killed in the March in a head on crash. It was then that I thought about the car accident that mum and I missed earlier that night. Was that the last thing that my sister saw before she was killed? That was the last memory I had before I woke up 10 days later in ICU Medway to two nurses pulling out my breathing tube. At first I had no idea where I was until one of the nurses told me I was in intensive care. At this time it didn’t occur to me that I was in hospital, nor that there was anything wrong with me. I had so many drugs in my body I just lay there and watched as the nurses ran around.

The first thing I did was to hold my hands up to see if I had needles in me. I’d always said to mum, if I ever have to go into hospital to make sure that they covered up the needles and junctions. I always pass out at the sight of them. Yes, they had been covered up. I asked the nurse where my mum was and she said that she had been called and would be up later that night to see me."

That is when the madness began

"I was very aware of tubes coming out of me at every point possible and had a junction coming out of the left side of my neck that the people who told me they were nurses and doctors used to take blood and pump all kinds of drugs in me. I had a food tube in my nose along with oxygen tubes. I’m glad I couldn’t see myself as I would have freaked out. My blood pressure cuff would go off every 30 minutes or so and made my hand feel like it was going to drop off. I know my legs were still there as I could see them but I couldn’t move them or feel them. At this point in time this didn’t panic me as I didn’t quite know what planet I was on."

Hallucinations in hospital

"I began to hallucinate. I saw Peter Andre dressed in a dinner jacket with Katie Price, who I believed was a vampire nurse. For hours I thought she was trying to kill me and I was truly terrified. Vivid colours swam in my eyes and I had no control over what I was seeing. I even saw members of the cast of The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE). It was totally bizarre and scary.

A little later that day my boyfriend Darren came to see me. He sat at my bedside for hours. Holding my hand, telling me about my puppy and my nephew who I was missing so much. I told him about the Essex gang and all that happened. I also told him that the new vampire (my nurse) asked him if mum was going to bring my nephew Jack up to see me as it was his 4th birthday. Hours passed and then I heard a little voice calling my name. It was Jack. He seemed nervous to see me but I showed him how to use my bed and he watched me move it up and down. In the end he was sitting on me as he played with the controls on the bed. Made me feel a little sick but I was so happy to see him. I’d missed 13 days of his little life, which is the longest I’ve been away from him. We watched a bit of a movie before he got bored and wanted to play with my bed again. Home time came all too soon and we said our goodbyes. Tears again and feeling of emptiness as they left me again to be eaten by the vampires.

I was told I was doing so well they wanted to move me to a new ward. It wasn’t until midnight that they moved me. I’m sure they did this so the vampires had an idea where I was. I was now on a high dependency ward. I was met by a vampire and Betty Boo. I thought why was Betty here? But I didn’t ask any questions. The vampire came over and asked if she could take my blood. I said ‘all you lot want is my blood’. She laughed and said ‘yes we are all vampires here’. Betty came over and told me to try and get some rest and pulled the white curtain round my bed after bringing me a jug of water. I opened them and looked at the wall. I could see my beautiful sister’s face. She smiled at me and said, ‘you’ve done it Kel. You’re getting better now. You stay strong for my little man.’ With that I felt safe. Before this happened I had thoughts of giving up. I never told my family this before until now. The thought of my sister by my side as my own guardian angel made me want to carry on.

Morning came and I was allowed to eat my first breakfast in 13 days. It was only toast and tea but it tasted so good. I was starting to feel better and I met my new nurse Gary. I had a wash and put my make up on. It’s the first day I started to feel like I wanted to live and carry on. Later that day my auntie Shelley and cousin Bonnie came to visit me. I began to tell them about my TOWIE experience the night before and Bonnie laughed at me."

Learning to walk again

"I couldn’t feel my legs but the physiotherapists told me they would have me walking in no time. I thought yes by the time I go home I’ll be walking again. I took my first steps after I got out of the bed for the first time. I felt so proud of myself. I really was getting better. Then I asked my nurse if I could have my catheters removed. It was like trying to retrain yourself to go on the potty again - so degrading.

A couple of hours later my best friend walked in. I though Nic might have cried but she held it together, bless her. For a moment I felt normal as we chatted and laughed.

In the morning it was physiotherapy time again. They had me using a walking frame. I was very wobbly and getting frustrated as I had no strength in my arms and legs. It was like learning to walk again. After I had rested for a bit the nurses came in and told me I had visitors. As I looked up I saw mum, dad and Darren. I was so happy to see them again. I wanted to show them how well I was doing so I got the zimmer frame and walked over to them and said lets go to the hospital café. I wanted so badly to get off the ward. We drank tea and chatted for ages. Time came for them to go home and again I wanted to go with them. I walked back to the ward and sat in bed. I looked out of the window and in the lamp light I could see it had just started to snow. I had a little smile to myself and slowly fell asleep for the first time in 15 days.

I woke up at 4.25am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I lay there looking out of the window dreaming of home. 6am came and it was time for my sugar test and blood pressure. After breakfast it was physiotherapy time again. This time they had me walking up and down stairs. Little did I know this was a test for me so they could sign me off to go home. I passed!! I was so happy. The doctor came round. He asked me questions and asked how I was. He too signed me off. I couldn’t believe it. I could be going home today! My auntie Shelley came to see me again just as the nurse came to tell me I could go home. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was. I couldn’t wait to get home and see my family. I was home. I was safe.

My visions of vampires and celebrities were all to do with the drugs I had in my body to save my life. It was the scariest time of my life. If it wasn’t for the fast action of my mum and all the doctors and nurses I wouldn’t be here to tell you my story. I do believe that someone should have told me what was going on and I might not have felt so scared and frightened. It was a different story for my family as they saw it all – including me fighting the doctors off me. But since I’ve found out that’s one of the effects of the illness.

Two months on and I’m finding it hard to walk, get upstairs and pick things up. I’ve lost a lot of weight from being ill too. I have scars everywhere that one day I hope will fade away but for now they are my battle scars - a little reminder of how lucky I am to be alive. I have hair loss that hasn’t grown back yet. My skin is dry all over my body. My fingernails are weak and keep breaking off. I have some memory loss but its slowly coming back to me. I still haven’t got feeling in the bottom half of my legs and some toes. Apart from that, I’m alive and so thankful for all the doctors and nurses who cared for me and got me better. I owe them my life.

More needs to be done to inform people about the dangers of this killer!"