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Natalia's story

25th November 2021

Natalia, from Maulden in Bedfordshire, contracted pneumococcal meningitis, leading to a stroke at the age of just 41

Natalia's story

It took her about a year to recover properly and she’s keen to pass on her experience to others and encourage them to take the time they need to recover and not rush things. She recounts her experience here.

“I spent around two weeks having flu and stayed off work for three days, but felt I needed to keep going. On the Friday I was still having earache and one of my ears was blocked, but I still managed to go to work. I remember driving home and nearly falling asleep at the wheel.

“At night my temperature went up and by 2am it was 39.9 degrees. I called 111 and was advised to take ibuprofen and take off my dressing gown.

“I finally went to sleep around 3am and woke up around 5.30am. I went to the kitchen, turned on the light and at the sight of the light collapsed, banging my head on the counter. I became incontinent and couldn't move, but was still conscious.

Started to lose consciousness

“Luckily, I fell with a great bang which woke my husband up. He came downstairs and I asked him to get an ambulance. He was still arguing with getting them to collect me, as they said I wasn't a priority as I was still conscious. When they arrived some 40 minutes later I started to lose consciousness and only vaguely remember getting into the ambulance.

“I woke up three days later in an intensive care unit. I was very confused, struggled with my memory and was speaking half English and half Polish. I wasn't able to sit or walk.

“Later, I was told that my bacterial meningitis had caused me a minor stroke.

Spent two weeks in hospital

“I spent two weeks in hospital on intravenous antibiotics. At some point I suffered a very disturbing experience of having my vision go blank and was worried this was a seizure. I was reassured that it was a one-off nerve sensitivity. Luckily this incident didn't happen again.

“When I got discharged I continued to be very weak and continuously slept. Having two children aged 4 and 8 at that time was hard and not being able to look after them properly was heart-breaking.

“For around two months I suffered very pronounced after-effectsmy hearing was very affected and I kept having an awful noise in my head that was hugely disturbing. I was very weak, couldn't move much or do much for myself. Having to brush my teeth and wash my face would exhaust me for a couple of hours.

Answered all my questions

“I had a follow up with the intensive care consultant a couple of months later. I found it very reassuring - she spent a good 40 minutes answering all my questions. She also suggested I get a jab for the bacteria that caused my meningitis (pneumococcal vaccine).

“I also had a follow up with a consultant to address my hearing problems. They decided I had tinnitus. Interestingly, when I realised there was no organic cause to my hearing problems, they stopped some two weeks later.

“I also saw a neurologist who showed me the scan of my brain with the dark sections, which died during my stroke. How sad! He reassured me, saying my stroke was caused by my infection and I wasn't at risk of further strokes. He also suggested researching neuroplasticity.

Desperate to return to normal life

“I returned to work on a phased return around three months later. Admittedly, it was too soon, but I was desperate to prove to myself I could get back to normal life. In reality it took me around a year to get back to normal, so that would be my learning from this experience – not rushing things.

“I never imagined I might have meningitis and a stroke at 41, but I like to think of my luck and my resilience and the lovely family and friends who helped me through that rough patch.

“I try to look after myself more nowadays but feel I have recovered completely. I might have some minor stroke after-effects (I do tend to say weird things if not concentrating) but this is manageable.”