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Peter McG’s story

3rd October 2017

Peter, from Glasgow, was enjoying travelling through Europe in 1989 when he was laid low by meningococcal septicaemia. He pulled through but has been left with lifelong after-effects. He tells his story as a meningitis survivor here

Peter McG’s story

“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.

Ambulance called

“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

“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 ...”