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Sophia S's story

11th September 2023

Sophia, from Hertfordshire, was at university in Manchester when she became gravely ill with meningitis and septicaemia

Sophia S's story

“I had just turned 19 when I got ill with meningitis. I am a student at the University of Manchester.

“I had just celebrated my birthday - not five days later I was fighting for my life in intensive care.

“I woke up on a Tuesday feeling incredibly achy, which quickly turned into violent sickness. I was telling people I had a sick bug but in my gut I knew something was really wrong - I just didn’t want to believe it.

Incredibly ill

"I felt so incredibly ill - I felt like I was dying. But at the time I just thought, ‘don’t be silly, you’ll be better in a few days!’

“I had a horrible headache and my ears felt really blocked. I was sick for the whole day and became weaker and weaker. I was barely able to make it out of bed to get to the toilet.

“I woke up the next morning feeling even worse. I heard my mum ringing me to check I was ok, but I was too weak to pick it up. Thankfully an hour or so later I mustered the strength to phone her back.

“When she picked up the phone she realised I was unable to speak properly. I was slurring my words. She realised it was very serious so got me to text my flat mates asking for help.

Help 111

“I couldn’t see much at this point so I could not type well but I just about managed to get a distress message of ‘Help 111’ through to the flat mate group chat.

“Two of my flatmates then came rushing into my room. My parents also called campus security who came straight away.

“When we spoke to the 999 operator they said it could be a couple of hours wait for an ambulance, however, when we described my symptoms they upgraded my case so that an ambulance came right away.

“All I remember after that were the paramedics in my room and then being taken to the ambulance and waiting in resus.

“I am so grateful I managed to phone my mum back otherwise it’s likely I wouldn’t be here today.


“By the end of the day I was in Manchester MRI hospital with sepsis, but I didn’t get officially diagnosed with meningitis until a day later. I was in intensive care for three nights, then moved to the high dependency unit where I spent the next nine days.

“Throughout this time I had emergency surgery, as I developed a septic joint in my hip and I had myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). I also discovered that I had permanently lost my hearing in my right ear.

“Eventually, after two weeks in the hospital, I made it out and went home to Hertfordshire to recover.


“Unfortunately, just over a month later I was admitted to hospital again with costochondritis (muscular skeletal pain), which was inflammation due to what my body had been through.

“I was on IViv antibiotics for six days as they didn’t know whether my high infection markers were from the costochondritis or another bacterial infection.”

“Since then, I have slowly been recovering, although it still affects me and I have had to have multiple physio appointments for muscular problems due to inflammation.

“To help with my single-sided deafness I also went ahead with a cochlear implant, which was a time critical decision because the operation isn’t possible after a certain period of time when you lose your hearing from meningitis.

“The decision I had to make was something I never expected to do but I am very glad I did as it has changed my life.

Grateful to be alive

“I am grateful to be alive and although I feel unlucky, I know that compared to others I got off lightly! I am really keen to spread awareness about the MenB vaccination, as this is the type I got.

“This type of meningitis is not covered in the standard MenACWY jab that I was given in secondary school. It is available to infants on the NHS vaccination programme, but it’s so important that university students are protected too, as they are in a high-risk category to catch it.

“The Men B vaccine is currently not free on the NHS but, had I have known about it, I would have definitely got it before going to university.”

Find out more about the menb vaccine.