Conor's story

16th November 2018

Eighteen-year-old Conor, from Belfast, has been unfortunate enough to contract meningitis not once but three times in the last seven years, without once developing the rash commonly associated with the disease

Conor McDonald meningitis case study

That’s why he’s keen to share the message to seek prompt action and to be aware of anything out of the ordinary about your health.

“I had never heard of meningitis before, until I was unlucky enough to get it."

“I can remember sitting in our school’s assembly, in January of 2011, when I started to feel a massive spell of nausea coming on. I was sent right home and taken to the hospital once my dad came home."

“I was diagnosed with viral meningitis that night and had to spend a week in hospital to get it out of my system. After that, I thought nothing else of it, other than it was a minor inconvenience, until I got it again in 2015."

Massive drowsiness

“After experiencing massive drowsiness and acting unresponsively by not listening or talking to others, my family called for an ambulance. The last thing I remember was being put in the back of it on a Sunday, and then waking up in hospital on the following Friday."

“I had contracted meningococcal meningitis and was lucky to get through it with no serious drawbacks to my physical health."

“I had to remain in hospital for two weeks this time. During this it was found that there was an opening in my inner left ear, which I have always been deaf in, that allowed for a leakage of spinal fluid. This was believed to be the entrance the viruses and bacteria used to get into my system. Plans were then set up for me to have surgery to seal up the leak."

Take time out of school

“This second case happened during my final GCSE year at school and after being given advice to take the year off and repeat it, I decided to go ahead with my studies and give the exams a go. I had to take time out of school, with half days becoming a common occurrence to me. Studying actually helped me, in that it took my mind off what I had gone through, and the upcoming surgery, which was set to happen two days after my final exam.  After a long time going through them, I finally finished my exams in June and had the surgery, which was deemed to be successful."

“Almost a year and a half later, in January of this year, I started experiencing an incredibly painful headache. I tried sleeping it off and taking headache tablets, but it didn’t help at all. My family phoned for an ambulance once more, and I was diagnosed for the third time with meningitis after a CT scan."

Thrown off my guard

“The seal around the opening in my ear must have come loose and allowed for another strain to get into my system. This threw me off my guard, and took a toll on my mental health. After two more weeks in hospital, and another surgery planned, my family and I got in contact with Meningitis Now, who were kind to offer a free counselling service to me, which greatly improved my mental state."

“I had surgery in July of this year, which is looking pretty good so far, and the seal around the leak seems to be holding much better than last time."

“Even though I’ve suffered meningitis three times in my life, the first signs of it were different each time."

“The first in 2011 was just massive nausea; the second in 2015 was fatigue and drowsiness and the final one in 2018 was an incredibly sore headache."

“I never developed the common rash symptom either, showing me that meningitis can be hard to identify, since the common symptoms may not always show up if you have it. It’s scary to think about it that way, but the trick is to always be aware of your health and how you’re feeling. Never wait too long before you decide to take action, and be aware of anything out of the ordinary about your health.”

Conor is one of the young people taking advantage of our Believe & Achieve Programme. If you’re a young person aged 14-25 and have been affected by meningitis, find out how the Programme could benefit you here.

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