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Neil's story

9th November 2020

Neil, from Dursley in Gloucestershire, was on holiday with family members when he became ill and started acting out of character

Neil's story

His condition deteriorated and as well as a loss of appetite he developed severe headaches, anxiety and confusion, sensitivity to light and neck pain, as well as a high temperature and vomiting.

An emergency message to his ex-partner saved the day and she arranged for him to be taken to hospital, where viral meningitis was eventually diagnosed. Now, three years on, he is pretty much recovered, as he tells us here.

“Back in May 2017 I had just turned 47 and as a present for my son’s 25th birthday the following month I decided that I would take him, his son and his girlfriend and her kids away for a week to a holiday resort not too far away from where I live in the west country.

“The day we arrived and we all went to a restaurant on the site we were staying at. It was then that I first noticed that I had lost my appetite. At the time I thought that was all it was.

“The rest of the week went by and I had no symptoms other than not wanting to eat. On the fifth day of our vacation I started to feel a bit agitated and a little confused at times, which was obviously out of the ordinary, but at the time I was oblivious to it.

“That night, after going out for the evening, I ended up having a huge row with my son, which was a first. As a child I never even had to tell him off as he was so good and we were so very close. He and his girlfriend packed all their stuff and took off, leaving me alone.

“On reflection I don't blame him. I was being unreasonable but didn't realise what was about to happen. That same night I tried to sleep but couldn't. I remember not feeling great and felt my temperature rising a little.

Just wanted my own bed

“The next day, after cleaning the holiday home, I drove home. The journey is normally a one and a half hour drive, but because of an accident on the motorway it took about five hours. I was feeling awful all the way and just wanted to get in my own bed.

“The next couple of days were uneventful. I was not feeling great and sleeping sporadically.

"I went back to work after another night of no sleep and this is the day when everything was about to change. I remember it was an absolutely beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky and by 7 o’clock the temperature was pushing 25 degrees as the whole country basked in a heatwave.

“I left for work noticing I had a bit of a headache and was a little sensitive to the light. I struggled through the day, not even having a break as I just wanted to get home. I never even stopped for food as I just didn't fancy anything. As the day drew on and the temperatures outside hit the high 30s I gradually felt worse. I got home around 4ish in the afternoon and by now the headache was unbearable.

“I went to the supermarket to buy paracetamol and food that I didn't really want but needed as I hadn't eaten all day. On getting home I took the tablets and forced the food down me. Shortly afterwards I started shivering and was nearly in tears with the pain in my head and also now my neck. I put the heating on and a big thick coat and lay by the radiator. It was still around 30 degrees outside.

“I fell asleep for a couple of hours but on waking I now felt sick. I managed to get upstairs and put my head in the toilet just in time to be violently sick. Any food I'd had over the last few days came rushing back up. After all that had come up it was then the turn for bile! The next couple of hours were spent swapping bed (to try and sleep this bug off) for toilet to be sick.

Started to get worried and scared

“Come midnight I started to get worried and scared as I was alone so I sent a text to my ex-girlfriend who I was still friendly with. I didn't want to call her as I knew she would be getting up for work the next morning. Now, she normally turns her phone off at night but for some reason unexplained she hadn't this night. Plus she had got up to go to the toilet and noticed I had messaged her, so she called me.

“After a little chat she could sense something was terribly wrong so she came round. On answering the door she took one look at me and said that she had never seen anyone looking so ill. She decided to call 111 to get advice. They asked her to ask me a series of questions. My responses made no sense so they sent an ambulance out.

“On arrival the ambulance crew checked me over and my temperature was 38.5. They put me on a drip but nothing they could do would make my temperature go down so they decided to get me to Gloucester Hospital.

“I had tests and lots of medication, including morphine, but nothing seemed to work. By this time being sick was starting to become a little less frequent but the other symptoms had either stayed the same or got worse. I was taken to a ward when a bed was found but I had problems with the light. If I asked a nurse to turn the light out another one would turn it back on, understandably.

“I spent most of that day in the ward but was transferred to an isolated room later in the evening. There I had lots of tests and medication and nurses would only enter wearing masks for the next two days. Then one morning I woke at around 6am feeling the worst I had ever felt. My temperature had gone up to 39.8 and my whole body was shaking. My heart rate was over 120 bpm. Normally it's under 50. Nurses battled for two hours to get it all back under control. All the time I thought my time was up.

Confirmed viral meningitis

“The next day I was told I was to have a lumbar puncture and to sign a consent form. The doctor told me to sit leaning forward resting my arms on a chair. I was given an anaesthetic and he proceeded to administer the lumbar puncture. I remember how hot it was. The sweat was dripping off me then all of a sudden my left leg kicked out and I hit the floor. He had accidentally touched a nerve. He made his apologies and said I should have it induced by x-ray. This was to be done the next day.

“This passed smoothly though I remember how uncomfortable it was and the sensation of it will never be forgotten. Some of the fluid stayed in Gloucester and some was sent to the BRI (Bristol). A couple of days later the results came back confirming I had viral meningitis.

“One thing I did find a bit strange was that at no point was I told what I might be suffering from. It wasn't until the tenth day when I was discharged (as long as I had someone to look after me at home) that I was informed.

“I must thank everyone who looked after me though at Gloucester Royal Hospital. They were brilliant and all very good to me. They also said that at the height of my illness they feared for my life and if it wasn't for the quick thinking of my ex things could have turned out very differently.

“On discharge my previously ex-girlfriend looked after me both physically and financially. I couldn't walk anywhere unaided and my speech was slurred. I was off work for nearly four months. Recovery was slow and I did struggle at first but I got there.

Pretty much recovered

“After my brush with meningitis I would quite often suffer from similar headaches and that water up your nose feeling. Any time I got a slight cold I would get all those meningitis symptoms but on a smaller scale.

“Now three years on I am pretty much recovered. I am still with the woman that I say saved my life and who I am forever indebted to. Unfortunately my relationship with my son is still non-existent despite my continuous efforts. Hopefully one day he will understand how meningitis can affect you and we can get back on track.”