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Sophie S’s story

29th June 2023

Twelve months ago Sophie had what she thought was sunstroke. In fact, she’d contracted viral meningitis and it has been a life-changing experience for the now 31-year-old from Newport in South Wales. With the help of family and friends she’s fighting back and is now looking to fundraise so she can get her old life back, as she tells us here

Sophie S’s story

“My life changed 'overnight' for me last July. I thought I had sunstroke, as it was the start of the heatwave.

I was being violently sick and had the worst headache of my life.

Little did I know at the time but I was actually fighting viral meningitis. Not only did I have sickness, but excruciating head and eye pain, confusion, delirium and vertigo.

“I went to hospital after a doctor came to the house and took one look at me and said I needed to be in the hospital asap. I couldn't even wait for an ambulance. The medical assessment unit transferred me via ambulance to a nearby hospital and after three days getting more and more delirious, I was moved to the ITU unit at The Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa Cwmbran. This is where I was in an induced coma for three-and-a-half weeks, fighting for my life, on a ventilator. I had a tracheostomy fitted too.

“I can't thank my family and friends enough for their support through this most awful time of my life.

Totally paralysed

“Once I'd come around from the coma, I realised I was totally paralysed. Not even my eyeballs could move and, due to the tracheostomy, I also had no voice.

“It was a horrendously scary time for me as I hadn't just watched myself, as my family did, go through the toughest stage of my fight. So, I just kept thinking I was going to die when in reality I was thankfully out of the woods!

“Even though it had been nearly a month of touch and go for my family, watching me unsure of when I would wake up and how I would be affected by this situation, it was as if this had happened overnight for me, as I fell asleep with what I assumed was sunstroke and woke up paralysed.

In ITU for 94 days

“I was in ITU for 94 days before I was finally well enough to come off the ventilator and with the tracheostomy removed to be transferred back to Royal Gwent Hospital, where I was waiting to be transferred to the University Hospital Llandough Spinal Injury Unit. This is where I am now, over 340 days since I fell ill. I'm here for rehabilitation as the illness I had has attacked my spinal cord and left it with three lesions, which are stopping signals from my brain getting to my body, C5 nerve and below.

“Hopefully with my determination and hard work I can get my independence back as much as possible and get back to living MY life. At the moment I feel I'm living someone else's with mine on hold.

“I've decided to start fundraising as I've realised it is going to be a struggle to go about my daily life without certain equipment, and unfortunately it's not cheap. I also would like the opportunity to try out some private rehab sessions at Hobbs in Bristol which again is not cheap as it’s a specialist private rehabilitation clinic.

Get around independently

“I'd benefit tremendously from an electric hand cycle attachment for my wheelchair so that I can get around independently over various terrain so I'm not stuck in the house all day. This will also enable me to be able to go out on day trips with my nephew and spend quality time with my family, without being restricted to smooth flat surfaces for my wheelchair.

“Let alone the emotional and psychological support I will need to get over the madness that has been this past year, as I've definitely suffered with PTSD!

“I really didn't want to ask for help with fundraising but I've been spurred on by friends and family who would like to help me get my life back, the one I've so desperately fought to keep and in doing so we shall spread the word about spinal cord injuries and meningitis, as this isn't something I ever thought would happen to me.

“Thank you so much for reading my story, I'm so sorry it’s so long but there isn't a short way of saying all that's gone on in almost a year! Don't worry if you can’t donate, simply sharing this link will help enormously! And if you'd like to take part in any fundraising activities that would be greatly appreciated!

You can support Sophie’s rehabilitation or follow her ongoing story on her Instagram page here – @memyselfandmeningitis.

Sophie’s brother Robert and his friends are taking part in a Three Peaks Challenge later in July to raise additional funds for her rehabilitation. Read more and support their efforts.