“I was backpacking through Europe for the third time and had just left Regensburg in the former West Germany, travelling to Salzburg via Munich for my friend’s birthday.
I can’t even remember doing that but my inter-rail ticket shows that is what happened.
“So, for the next few lines, I will be relying on what I have been told. I arrived in the YoHo, the youth hotel in Salzburg, got booked in and got told by Mitch (my Aussie mate) that I wasn’t looking too well. Seemingly I had lost colour and looked ‘grey’ and was complaining of a sore knee. After I booked in I went to bed.
“A few hours later (we think) a couple of people came to wake me up for the party that Mitch was having. Fortunately for me they were two nurses and, as I later found out, a paramedic. To cut a long story short, I was away with it, I didn’t know who I was or where I was. I got the old ‘do you know where you are?, what’s your name? etc.
“An ambulance was called and I was admitted to hospital. That’s where I had my first MI (heart attack). I was then transferred to the main hospital in Salzburg (Landeskrankenstalten) and for the next ten days I was in a coma having had another heart attack and collapsed lungs (septic shock).
“I eventually came out of the coma to find my mum and dad at my bedside. At that time I didn’t know what was going on. My memories of the time in hospital in Salzburg are very vague. I remember getting out of bed for a drink of water, collapsing and having a ‘monkey bar’ over me to pull myself up, but my arms were too weak to do that.
“Eventually it was decided I was well enough to come home and I got an air ambulance back to Glasgow, where I was admitted to the Nuero unit of the Southern General hospital. I got so many tests done on me and had at least 15 student doctors at a time when my consultant came to see me. That’s when I thought ‘it might be bad’.
Then came the bad news
“So, now to what I can remember. Fully single room, one bed, low lighting. I found it hard to speak because of the nasal gastro tube and being ventilated when in the coma, doing a press up and my mum being over the moon (I put my mum through a really hard time of it when I was in Salzburg, my dad told me). Then, after a few weeks, came the bad news. I would never be able to walk again and that my parents’ house would have to be adapted to accommodate me.
“I was diagnosed eventually as an S4 paraplegic. I was meant to get transferred to Phillipshill Hospital for my physiotherapy but an outbreak of measles or mumps (can’t remember which) meant that I was eventually transferred to Gartnavel Royal Hospital.
“Again, cutting a long story short, I had intensive physio for two months and was then discharged. I spent the next 18 months going to physiotherapy until I got my final discharge. My walking wasn’t great but it was improving all the time.
“Four years later, I went back to Salzburg for 10 days, flying out on the fourth anniversary of when it happened, the 1st of August. I had a great time. The following year I spent a month in Canada with relatives and did a bit of touring over there. I don’t really go on holidays anymore but the reason for this is I can’t stand beach holidays and I am not fit enough to do inter rail anymore. Some say it’s an age thing but I know how draining it is, not a relaxing holiday but more of an adventure.
“Moving forward, I started work six years after falling ill with a Scottish bank and have had a few jobs since then. I met and became engaged to a girl - she was a New Zealander who stayed in Scotland for two years. I applied for a work permit to go over there, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Then I found out one of my implants was starting to fail so I had to come back home for an operation (they don’t do it in NZ). So, roughly seven operations, having a partial amputation of my foot (joking, I have lost a toe) here I am back in Scotland.
“I got off lucky. I wear a leg brace on my right leg, an AFO but still have balancing problems, so I fall over if I get nudged or if I hit an uneven pavement. But stubbornness should be my middle name! I am currently a volunteer with Meningitis Now although health problems stop me from doing a lot for the charity - anyone with chronic neuralgia pain and who gets UTIs will understand.
“There is a lot more to my story, the friends who have stood by me and given me a kick up the backside when I needed it and the friends who were too afraid to get to know the new me (I didn’t realise that a wheelchair could frighten so many people away). This is just a small insight into what has happened to me in the last 28 years since falling ill to meningitis. I wouldn’t say I am a meningitis warrior, just a survivor ...”