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Tara's story

13th June 2018

Twenty-eight-year-old Tara, from Toddington in Bedfordshire, was rushed to hospital with an intense headache, photophobia and a stiff neck, leading doctors to suspect meningitis

Tara's story

They were unable to do a lumbar puncture to confirm this but treated her and gradually she improved.

But it was a course of cranial therapy, which she read about on our website, that has turned her life around and enabled her to carry on. Tara recounts her experience here.

“On 1 August last year (2017) I woke with what I would call quite an intense headache. I decided to get up and go to work anyway – I work as a supply chain manager in a busy manufacturing environment.

“As the day went on my head got worse and worse, my neck started to really ache and my head began to feel heavy. I usually finish at 3pm, but at 2.30pm during a meeting I simply couldn’t stay any longer, so I excused myself from the meeting and somehow made my way home.

“When I got home I went to bed and hoped that I would wake up in the morning feeling better.

“This wasn’t the case and when my alarm went off the next morning I could barely lift my head from the pillow and I had the most agonising headache. I texted my boss to say that I would work from home after I had got some more sleep. At 9am I woke up and my head wasn’t any better; in fact it was worse.

Called an ambulance

“I called my fiancé Jason and he said for me to call the doctors (luckily the surgery is right behind my house). I called them and they asked me to come in immediately. Within 10 minutes I was in the surgery with a coat and tracksuit bottoms over my PJs. The doctor spent 15 minutes assessing me and then said not to be concerned but she had called an ambulance to take me to the hospital to rule out meningitis.

“I didn’t have a rash so wasn’t worried and declined the ambulance and rang my mum Trudy who lives locally to take me to the local A&E. My mum came to pick me up and we made our way there.

“The doctor had already let the hospital know I was coming and she had given me a letter to give to the booking-in staff. I sat in the waiting room for what felt like a lifetime but was only actually about 10 minutes. I was quite quickly taken in to a side room, lots of doctors came to assess me and quite quickly decided they wanted to do a lumbar puncture and check for meningitis, as they were pretty sure that’s what it was.

“I was moved to the assessment ward and kept in a glass room. I had no idea where in the hospital the room was as I spent the whole time lying down with my mum’s sunglasses on and my coat wrapped around my head, as the bright lights were unbearable. The hours came and went and still no sign of the lumbar puncture or the scan they had wanted to do. They decided to start me on antibiotics about 9pm.

Head hurt so much

“My fiancé and my mum had gone home and I lay in a bed in a room that I didn’t even know where in the hospital I was. My head hurt so much and to this day I still remember so clearly the mixed feeling of thinking I was going to and actually wanting to die, so that the pain would go away. I was woken and poked and prodded every hour through the night by various nurses and doctors.

“The next day they tried to carry out a lumbar puncture, with not much success. In fact they tried 14 times on day two and twice on day five. First a visiting doctor tried, but she didn’t have any luck. She called for another doctor to come in and he didn’t have any luck either. I remember lying on the bed curled up like a baby holding onto my legs, not daring to move. They asked for my permission to let the anaesthetist try in theatre. So, off I went to theatre where three anaesthetists tried. My body was so dehydrated they couldn’t get any fluid out.

“The days came and went so quickly. My fiancé was by my side for every visiting hour he could be and my friends and family visited most days. My dad Clive travelled over an hour each way daily just to visit.

“On day five a different doctor came and was convinced he would be successful with the lumbar puncture. I gave him permission to try once only. He tried once and nothing, and begged me to let him try one last time. I was tired and had no energy to fight him and say no. I lay curled up on the bed holding onto my knees with a lovely nurse holding my hand.

Clinical diagnosis of bacterial meningitis

“Up until this point I had been emotionless. He inserted the needle and I felt an almighty pop – not like any of the other times, it was agony. I screamed out in pain and he quickly stopped. I lay there with my head under my blanket sobbing, with all the nurses and doctors still in the room. I felt like a small child again, all alone with all these strangers around me. I sobbed for about an hour. I had had enough, I was drained, in pain, tired and wanted my own bed in my own home.

“The doctor decided I needed to be taken to a hospital in London to have the lumbar puncture done under MRI. They then changed their mind again after speaking with the London Hospital; they didn’t want to move me unless they needed to and as I had now been on the strongest antibiotics for five days, I was being treated anyway. They made a clinical diagnosis based on bloods and other tests that I had bacterial meningitis.

“The antibiotics they gave me made me really sick. The constant fluids for dehydration kept bursting my veins and cannulas had to be moved twice a day. I had bloods taken three times a day and was poked and prodded every hour of every day. I couldn’t sleep at night because the cannulas and drips didn’t allow me to get into a comfortable position. My sister Kerri and mum brought food daily as I refused to eat the hospital food – not that I was particularly hungry.

“Finally, on day 11, I was allowed home under ‘hospital at home’ care. Special nurses visited my home four times a day to administer the antibiotics and pain medication through a PIC line in my arm. They came early in the morning and late at night and each visit lasted two hours. This went on for three weeks. But I didn’t care, I was home, in my own house in my own bed.

Seven weeks off work

“I had seven weeks off work and went back on a phased return of a few hours a day for several weeks.

“I struggled terribly with tiredness and persistent headaches. I tried as best as possible to carry on like normal as much as I could. But this wasn’t easy, I struggled with my talking, I got my words mixed up and couldn’t get words out very easily. I kept quiet but inside it was breaking me. I was in my final year of Uni and working in a high-profile job full time. My Uni studies were and still are under immense pressure. I went from high scoring marks to just making merits. My stressful job didn’t help either.

“Not long before I fell ill I had been wedding dress shopping with my mum, sisters and best friend. I still don’t remember choosing my dress. Once I was feeling better I had to go back and see my dress, as I couldn’t really remember what it was like.

“In the November I went back to uni and sat two exams. This was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I convinced myself that I had failed, learning just didn’t come easily to me anymore, and I struggled so badly. Three months later my results came through and I had passed both exams. I was so relieved I cried.

Trying cranial therapy changed my life

“My headaches continued and disturbed my life massively. They stopped me doing things, stopped me enjoying life. I read on Meningitis Now’s website about cranial therapy. I thought about it for quite a while, sceptical it would work and conscious that it costs a lot of money.

“I decided I had nothing to lose and made an appointment. This appointment changed my life! The very first session gave me some instant relief. I am on my sixth session and will continue them monthly for the foreseeable future. I had a blockage of the spinal fluid, which was causing the headaches to be so bad - the blockage is now cleared thanks to my osteopath. My headaches haven’t gone but are half of what they used to be. I don’t wake up every morning barely being able to lift my head off of the pillow. Up until recently I hadn’t had an alcoholic drink since before I was ill in August. The osteopath suggested I try organic wine – lifesaver! I owe so much to cranial therapy and to my osteopath Laura.

“Eleven months on my life still isn’t back to normal. The meningitis has changed so many aspects and little things that I took for granted before. I have, however, over time, managed to re-build things and get back to normal where I can.

“My amazing fiancé, family and friends provided me with the support I needed to carry on at times when I felt like I couldn’t cope any longer. I have had a crazy busy year but it’s my family, my friends, my job, my degree and my wedding that has helped me to persevere and to never give up.

“Aside of the damage that meningitis caused in my life, it gave me something priceless – it helped me to see life in a different way, to appreciate the small things so much more, to realise that there is always someone else worse off than you and to live every day to the fullest. In seven weeks I get to marry my soulmate and I’m thankful every day that I am still here to put my dress on and walk down the aisle with my dad and all the amazing people in my life by my side.

“My advice to anyone who is unfortunate enough to find themselves in my position – don’t give up! It does get easier.”