My fight with meningitis by Jacob Gray
So, who am I?
Just a typical 22 year-old really! Apart from living in hospital since January 10 2013, I like the outdoors, BBQs, going on drives and seeing where I end up. I feel at home walking through forests, boating on lakes, climbing up cliffs, camping in trees. For the past few years I've lived on the coast, I enjoyed the feeling of sand between my toes, paddle boarding and lounging on the sand.
January 10th 2013 - How it all began
I stumbled out of the back of an ambulance and into hospital having woken up at 2am confused, irritated, soaked in sweat, hallucinating, suffering from photophobia, a high temperature and aches and pains. I had no idea my body was about to quit on me, or that the doctors would soon find out my body was being taken over by meningococcal septicaemia.
After being put into a 15 day medically induced coma, my organs began to fail, one by one. I was put on life support and had two blood transfusions.
The medical team told my family my chances of survival were less than 10% and with that, they expected life long mental disability. My family and loved ones rushed to my bedside as I lay dying but the doctors kept me alive long enough for my father to fly in from Nigeria to what seemed like ‘goodbye’.
February 2013 - “An indescribable pain in an empty mind”
Occasionally they would see if I would wake up on my own. When they brought me round for these brief terrifying moments, I had no memory of who I was. Tears stream down my face and I can't understand why? I think it's knowing what it feels like to truly be lost.
Then one day they woke me. I didn't move. My nerves had been stripped and my muscles had severely wasted. A war had been won but many battles were to come.
July 2013 - Weeks turn to months
I dropped almost 140lbs in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit and my feet were damaged beyond repair. Looking back, I was not in a sound mind then to make important decisions about full amputation so I'm glad I kept them and tried an alternative method to try to repair them.
January 2014 - A year in bandages
I have had more than 19 hours of operations now. My toes have been amputated and they have taken muscle from each of my thighs to pad the front of my feet. The first time I sat up: it took months of work for me to just get to this stage. I could barely sit up under my own steam so it was a milestone for me. I never knew how tough it was all going to be.
I've lost everything and have been lying in bed for months, so there is no tone, no strength, no posture. But I can kneel! I start pushing boundaries on my own, trying to do exercises or kneeling and walking around the bed (I can't). Almost every time I fall over and risk getting caught.
Most days I remain positive about my situation, happy to try and work towards walking on "my own two feet." But then I really started to ponder… I concentrated on the shape of my feet and the terrible pain they were giving me.
They were too fragile and constantly broke down, leaving me with sores. The skin was as thin on the bottom of my soles as it is on your knuckles. It didn't have the padding anymore, nor did it arch or have two balls at the front anymore. The nerve damage in them also disabled me from moving my feet at all. I was unable to make them rotate the slightest amount and my knees were no longer strong enough to bend and hold the weight anymore.
To avoid more intense pain, I chose to have my legs amputated. That day was Monday February 24th 2014 – the start of a new chapter in my life.
UPDATE - JULY 2014 - Life is looking good at last!
I’m sharing my story today because I want as many people as possible to support Meningitis Now – they’re doing everything they possibly can to stop this evil disease claiming more lives and destroying people’s futures. The help and support I’ve had from this incredible charity is truly humbling and I know I wouldn’t have achieved all that I have without them.
I’ve recently taken my first (wobbly!) steps on my prosthetic legs and my girlfriend, Summer, said ‘yes’, when I asked her to marry me last month so life is looking good at last!
Please do what you can today to support Meningitis Now. I really don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve endured over the last 19 months. We must keep fighting to beat this terrible disease.
With news that a MenACWY vaccine is going to be introduced into the routine vaccination schedule, view the most frequently asked questions and answers here.