Hazel's story

1st April 2009

Hazel Southam had recently returned from an assignment in Jordan when she started to feel ill with flu-like symptoms. Fellow correspondents had caught a similar bug, so she didn't worry about it. Then, within just a few minutes everything changed


"Suddenly, it felt as if my brain and my body stopped working, I could barely speak, I couldn't think and I struggled to walk. My head was pounding. I felt delirious and the daylight hurt my eyes."

After a terrifying hour Hazel's GP diagnosed meningitis. There followed a dramatic ambulance dash to hospital followed by a CT scan and lumbar puncture. The tests revealed that she was suffering from viral meningitis.

A darkened room

For the next month, Hazel lay in a darkened room at home, unable to bear the light or tolerate noise. 

"I'm normally a really active person, squeezing lots into each hour, day and week. So it was a shock simply to be lying still. Instead of saying "How much can I do?" I was asking myself "How little can I do?" for weeks and months.

"For a couple of months I had no energy at all. That was one of the hardest things. And being self-employed I missed a month's work - and a month's salary. But when you have no energy, you soon become isolated. So having friends checking up on me really helped to get me back on my feet."

Seven out of eight symptoms

Hazel says that information from Meningitis Now proved helpful and would love to see others knowing the symptoms

"When I read the symptom list, I had seven out of a possible eight. I feel much more informed now and am really grateful for the information from Meningitis Now. My hope is that other people will become aware of the symptoms, so that they can avoid that horrible period of fear and uncertainty that I experienced."

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