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Michaela H’s story

11th March 2016

In June 2015, 19-year-old Michaela set off for what she thought would be the summer of a lifetime, working on the little island of Zakynthos (Zante) in Greece

Michaela H’s story

But Michaela, from Glenrothes in Fife, didn’t get to enjoy the island life when she came down with bacterial meningitis. She tells her story here.

“I flew out to Zakynthos by myself and met other workers there.

“One night I worked in a bar from 8pm until 3am and afterwards went out to a club until 6am. I was drunk and tired and got to my bed at around 6:30.

“I woke up at 3pm and my whole body was in agony from head to toe. The pain was even in my fingers and toes. I had an awful headache and I couldn't even move. I knew that this could not be a hangover.

“Five hours passed and I wasn't feeling any better. My flatmate wasn't home so I was by myself. I googled medical centres on Iaganas Strip and phoned one. The language barrier made it difficult to explain how I was feeling and where I was. Luckily two medical staff came out to see me later that night.

Unable to walk

“My blood pressure was through the roof and they wanted to take me to the medical centre so they could carry out further investigations. When I tried to get up and walk I fainted. The medical staff had to carry me down the stairs as my body was so weak I couldn't walk.

“At the medical centre, all I can remember was that they put me on a drip and I was dipping in and out of consciousness, occasionally waking up to hear the music from the clubs on the strip.

“At 3am they took me home and told me to take paracetamol, drink plenty of water and gave me crisps and chocolate to eat. At 5am I woke up still in incredible pain and I knew something wasn't right. Thankfully I am a drama queen and it saved my life!! I phoned the medical centre back and they told me to take paracetamol and get plenty of sleep. I was adamant that I needed to go to hospital as I was in so much pain.

“The medical staff came back out and took me to hospital. I began vomiting and couldn't stay awake. I only vaguely remember things from this point on. I woke up in hospital and there was a lot of medical staff around me. I remember them inserting a needle into my back but not having a clue what was going on - when in fact they were doing a lumbar puncture.

“At this point I couldn't cope, I kept saying that I couldn't do it, I was in too much pain. I even asked them if they could put me to sleep. The next thing I recall was waking up in a different room with two nurses inserting a catheter.

Transferred by ferry

“I then woke up on a stretcher in an ambulance with a loud drone noise - which was the noise of the ferry. I was transferred from Zante hospital to mainland Greece by ferry as they could not treat me in Zante. I was so oblivious to what was happening.

“I can't remember the first three days of being ill with meningitis. By day three I was more awake and aware of what was going on.

“My dad flew out and joined me by my bedside and the day after my mum and her partner managed to get flights out to join us. Without my family by my side I don't know how I would have coped. There were only a few nurses who spoke very little English and the nurses didn't give me a buzzer, so I had no way of getting assistance if I needed it throughout the night. I literally had to shout and scream to get their attention. The nurses often left my drip on and would forget to switch it off. They needed to test my blood regularly and my veins aren't good to take blood from, which left me covered in bruises and needle marks.

Michaela H bacterial meningitis case study

Didn’t realise how ill I was

“At the time I did not realise how ill I was. I was on oxygen, had two MRI scans, a CT scan and many blood tests. It was such a traumatising experience but I am an extremely lucky girl to be here to tell my story.

“If it wasn't for my stubborn, drama queen attitude I probably would not have survived. I am ever so thankful for all the staff that helped me and of course my family, who are amazing for putting up with me and being with me every step of the way.

“Meningitis Now has been in contact with me and my parents and have offered support. They are very helpful and understanding and have helped me to get in contact with others who I can speak to and gain support from.”