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Nick G's story

5th May 2019

Twenty-four-year-old Nick, from Brixton in London, fell ill last summer with meningococcal meningitis. Thanks to the kindness of strangers he was quickly admitted to hospital but it’s been a challenge getting back to what he considers ‘normal’

Nick G's story

Now though he’s determined to show there’s life after meningitis, by taking part in the Vitality 10K for us. He recalls his experience here.

“I started the week at work not feeling quite right but didn’t think much of it as I’d had a busy weekend, watching England beat Sweden in the quarter finals of 2018 World Cup. Throughout that week I was feeling tired and achy but attributed it to forcing myself to go to the gym on Monday lunchtime and two late nights in a row on Wednesday and Thursday (World Cup semi final and a work summer party)."

“That Friday evening, 13 July, some of my friends were going out for a few drinks. I wasn’t feeling 100% but it was a lovely evening and I thought I could go along for a bit and enjoy the sun. I only had a couple of drinks and set off home feeling okay, but as soon as I got on the tube I knew something wasn’t right. I started to lose my peripheral vision and felt like I was about to throw up."

More serious than a hangover

“I got off the tube in Canary Wharf and was sick numerous times. That night it took me over 2.5 hours to get home on a journey that would normally take 45 minutes as I was so unwell. I was awake at points through the night to be sick and only started to feel slightly better the next morning when I managed to eat something. Looking back I should have realised it was something more serious than a bad reaction to alcohol or a hangover, but your first instinct isn’t to think the worst."

“I had a first date with a girl that had been organised weeks in advance that evening and as I was feeling slightly better I decided it would be a good idea to go. (Turns out it was an incredibly important decision; I will get to that later)."

Running to the bathroom

“Arriving at the date spot I was thinking I didn’t feel 100% but I was nowhere near as bad as the night before. We got a drink and were chatting for about 40 minutes, before I started to feel unwell again. I ended up running to the bathroom and was violently sick, ending up with the worst headache I’ve had in my entire life. It felt like my head was being torn open."

“I apologised to the girl I was on a date with and said I needed to go home as I was ill. My journey home was a 25-minute bus ride so I thought I could make it. I lasted one stop on the bus before I had to get off to be sick again. This was right outside Elephant and Castle tube station on a Saturday evening, so it was pretty busy."

“Most people, understandably so, assumed a guy dressed for a date throwing up in the street at 8pm on a Saturday was drunk. I made a few attempts to stand up and try to get on a bus but I couldn’t really stand or not be sick for long enough to even get on the bus. At this point I wasn’t really able to concentrate to even use my phone. Judging from when I left my date and then the time written on my cannula, provided by the ambulance, I was in the street for about 45 minutes."

Called an ambulance

“Thankfully, about 30 minutes into that time, a girl I think was named Ellen stopped and asked if I was okay and realised I wasn’t drunk. She called the ambulance and sat with me the whole time keeping me conscious. I’ve never managed to find her since then unfortunately. I realise now how important that was. If I’d managed to make it home or never gone out I think I would have just gone to bed and my brother, who I live with, wasn’t due home until Sunday evening. So, I don’t really like to think about what could have happened."

“By the time I got to hospital and had been examined by a doctor, probably within two hours from when I was picked up, I had a developed a rash covering my forearms, hands and feet and my neck had completely stiffened. Scarily enough, these came on so quickly that I didn’t actually notice they were there until the doctor pointed them out. It was these symptoms that allowed the doctors to instantly have an idea of what could be happening to me."

“I ended up spending over a week in hospital on IV antibiotics, after I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. Thankfully my body responded really quickly to them and the infection cleared. After I was discharged I was still under the impression that I’d be fine in no time, and I realised pretty quickly that this wasn’t the case at all. I was tired a lot of the time and had severe headaches. This resulted in me taking four weeks off work."

Challenge to perform

“The reintegration into work and normal life was something I didn’t imagine would be as hard as it was. I work as a data analyst so my job requires a lot of concentration and problem solving. I experienced headaches/migraines and fatigue for approximately five months post hospital. It was a challenge to even attempt to perform at a level in my role as I had pre meningitis. I have never suffered from mental health or stress related issues previously, but the pressure I was putting on myself to return to how I was before meningitis quickly resulted in me suffering from what I can only describe as panic attacks. These were due to me worrying about whether or not I’d ever be back to ‘normal’ again."

“It was a piece of advice from my older sister that improved my outlook immensely and is something I’ve taken into many aspects of my life since then. The main reason I was struggling was due to comparing myself to how I was before I was ill, and thinking I was falling short. What my sister told me was just to compare myself to how I was ‘yesterday’. If I was doing even a tiny bit better then I could take that as a positive. For example, if I went for a walk outside for 12 minutes instead of 10 then that was a win. Taking it step by step, using this advice, helped my mental health and recovery massively."

Lack of concentration

“Alongside this, socially I couldn’t be as active as I was before meningitis. Social events were incredibly tiring and I would often not be able to hold conversations with people for any length of time due to headaches and a lack of concentration. Luckily, I was and still am surrounded by incredibly supportive colleagues, friends and family. who were patient with me during my recovery, allowing me to pick up relationships I had before I was ill."

“With all this said, I know how lucky I am to have only had the after-effects I did and to be able to say I fully recovered. Meningitis will though have a lasting impact on my life forever. My 2018 was split down the middle, everything before and everything after meningitis. It has given me a greater appreciation of how fortunate I am to be happy and healthy on a day-to-day basis, while also reminding me to take the time to look after myself and my health."

“The process of the recovery has made me stronger mentally as a person as I feel like I’ve overcome something incredibly tough. And, I am now a lot more conscious of people in distress in public places, as I know how crucial it was for me that someone stopped and helped me.”