Emma T's story

1st March 2013

In March 2013, 25 year old Emma Thompson from Paignton in Devon, began to feel unwell. She hadn't heard of viral meningitis before, but now she will never forget it

Emma-T

“It all started on a Saturday in March. I felt completely washed out and every part of my body ached. I knew something wasn’t right, but being a mother who works from home I just carried on regardless, but I was physically and mentally drained."

Over the course of the weekend I got worse, but I thought I had just been overdoing things. The following day I felt all heady and weak. I started to feel very panicky and my eyes went very bloodshot."

“When the room started spinning, I got into bed at 6pm and stayed there for over a day and a half. I had no energy, I literally just slept; in between sweats, shakes, high temperature and dizziness. I didn’t eat or drink a thing.

“The next morning, the pain in my head felt like it was going to explode and the lights really hurt my eyes. I couldn’t understand why I was still so weak. I knew I was ill, but I refused to believe it was anything serious.

“I saw myself in the mirror, and I looked horrendous. Both my eyes were incredibly bloodshot, with a yellow tinge. I was very pale and gaunt looking but flushed at the same time.

Straight to hospital

“My partner was very worried so he rang my doctor who told him to get me an ambulance straight away. I just started to cry. I didn’t want to go to hospital. When the paramedics arrived, they turned on the bedroom light and I couldn’t bear it. They got me to my feet as I could hardly walk. I couldn’t stay awake, I remember the paramedics shouting at me and occasionally opening my eyes to see the look of pure fright on my partner’s face.

“I became very confused and suffered memory loss, I didn't know who my husband was, his name, my name, my date of birth, where I lived; nothing. I got to A & E and became more and more frightened. My temperature was over forty, and I was shaking violently. I spent over six hours there, and spent most of it asleep with the covers over my head as the lights were too bright.

Diagnosis confirmed

“I was transferred to an assessment unit, where I saw another doctor. She informed me they were fairly certain that I had viral meningitis. I was shocked, I didn’t know there was more than one type, or that adults could even get meningitis! She told me that antibiotics wouldn’t work for viral, and that they deal with it with care and pain relief.

“I was given a towel to cover my eyes. The headache was unbearable. A few hours passed then a doctor came to see me and told me I would be having a lumbar puncture the next morning, and until then I would have a cannula and antibiotics in case it was bacterial meningitis.

“Overnight I was so ill, and sweated so much I soaked the bedding. I lay there weak, dehydrated, in pain, hot and constantly under the covers due to the light. At lunch time I had the lumbar puncture, the doctor and nurse were brilliant. It was scary but not as painful as I had imagined. I was told to lie on my back for four hours.

Emotional times

“My partner came to see me and I burst into tears as soon as I saw him. I had felt so alone and scared but I looked even worse. My lips were very cracked and I could hardly breathe. A doctor came and spoke to us saying the results were in; I did have viral, and would stay for 48 hours to be cared for and watched over. He explained it is not nice, and makes you very ill, but it wasn’t life threatening. It was a huge relief, but that was the last time I saw a doctor, and the only information I received.

“I was transferred to a ward where two nurses said I should go home as it was ‘just’ viral meningitis. I broke down, crying, they wouldn't let me speak, and made me feel like a nuisance. I stayed that night and the following morning no nurses came to see me. It seemed the nurses didn’t think ‘viral’ meningitis was an issue, so I decided to go home.

“For six days I stayed in bed, gradually getting better. After about four days I finally had something to eat. After the fifth day I got up, I was up for an hour, if that, then went back to bed again. I decided to do some research, and discovered this website. When I read the stories of other viral meningitis sufferers, I broke down. It was like reading my own story! Many others have felt this neglect; this sense of ‘oh it’s just viral meningitis’!

Helping Meningitis Now

“Before my illness, I honestly didn’t even think adults could get meningitis. I plan to do more to raise awareness of viral meningitis, and I’m holding an online auction to raise money for Meningitis Now during Viral Meningitis Week. I’m now up and about but I tire very easily. I was very scared about the lack of information I was given about the disease. But reading through Meningitis Now's website, I feel much better knowing I am not alone and that a wonderful charity is there to help, and that they understand!”

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