Ten years ago Jasmine contracted meningitis. Fortunately, she went on to make a good recovery and now, to mark the anniversary, she’s braving the shave to raise money so 10 young meningitis survivors can get support and coaching through our Believe & Achieve programme, as she tells us here
“It was the last Friday of the Christmas term in 2012. I’d just finished my dance show and was feeling extremely run down, but I pushed through. It was around this time that the Norovirus was going around, so once I started to become unwell, we all assumed it was just that. Oh, how wrong we were!
“Having called 111, around midnight on Saturday 15 December, Mum and Dad took me to the out of hours clinic at Warwick Hospital A&E, leaving my younger brother asleep in bed (sorry Joel). Dad carried me into the hospital and had to plop me onto a bed, as at this point I was a dead weight. The doctor heard me screaming in pain before he saw us and immediately called for the resus team. Fortunately, a wonderful Scottish doctor called Brian was in charge and his words to my parents were “I don’t know what it is, but we will throw everything we can at her and hope something works” – that ultimately saved my life.
“By now the doctors knew that something was wrong with my head and potentially affecting my brain so they needed to sedate me and put me into an induced coma so that they could do a CT scan. I was somewhat of a difficult patient due to the amount of pain that I was in. Now, as an incredibly squeamish person, this part shocks me. I had to be held down by six doctors, two nurses and my parents whilst they sedated me. I pulled out every single tube and cannula…
Spared the McFly tour t-shirt
“After a CT scan, the special care team from Birmingham Children’s Hospital came to transfer me to the intensive care unit there. It took over an hour just to hook up all the machines and get me ready for the ambulance. On arrival I was taken to a side room and assessed before the scans and tests on my brain began. Now, of most importance to me was that I was wearing my favourite band McFly’s tour t-shirt - how on earth they took it off without cutting it considering all the tubes and wires they had to navigate is a miracle! To make their lives even harder, I’d recently got a feather in my hair from the Birmingham Clothes Show (it was 2012 after all). In my notes, a nurse had written a strict note: “Do NOT remove feather!”. This standard of care became a constant throughout all three hospitals, where I was regularly having my hair combed and plaited by many lovely nurses.
“My parents moved into the amazing Ronald MacDonald House that is on site at the hospital so that they could stay with me. It was the Sunday before Christmas and traditionally we all watch ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ on TV. However, the only TV Mum and Dad were watching that night was the monitor showing my blood pressure and breathing rates.
“The following day, the doctors decided to try and bring me out of the coma so that they could do further tests. However, it took another couple of days for this to take effect. Whilst I was a lot calmer, I was completely unresponsive and Mum and Dad had to consider the likelihood of incurred brain damage. The nurses had encouraged my parents to bring in photos and recordings done by my friends to try and get a response from me. My first visitor was my dear friend Caitlin, who has been my friend since my first birthday. All was fine, until “I needed my suction doing – then it all became too much for poor Caitlin and she promptly fainted!
“The doctors needed to do a lumbar puncture, as by analysing my spinal fluid they could work out a proper diagnosis. There was still so much pressure on my brain that instead of the fluid rising gradually, it shot straight out of the top of the tube! An indication that I was still very poorly.
Diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia and meningitisW
“Finally, I was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia and meningitis W. No one had fully understood what was wrong with me up to this point, especially as I didn’t have the rash often associated with meningitis. Thankfully, Brian the original doctor in Warwick A&E had begun the antibiotics needed and it was his quick thinking that prevented me from having long-lasting physical after-effects. (One of my after-effects was bad memory but I’ll never forget his name - despite never consciously meeting him!).
“It was then that my parents were told that I would live and make a full recovery.
“Then I started to gain consciousness. It’s only now that I can start to comment on my journey, as I have no memory of anything since the Saturday morning after my dance performance. The first thing I remember was waking up in a very white room, to see a lady with dark hair and glasses looking at me. As you can imagine, I was extremely confused. I was still drugged up to my eyeballs and was almost in a trance. The only way that I can describe it was as if I was in a spaceship. The lovely part is, years on I’ve finally been able to read Mum’s diary of events, where Gemma, my nurse, had left me a lovely note. It was quite weird to read after all these years, putting such a strange memory to a name.
Fixated on Costa
“My first words were spoken whilst I was in transit to UHCW in Coventry: “Where’s Mum?”. Coventry wasn’t great, as I was gaining consciousness whilst the drugs were wearing off. I gained my speech, but was somehow talking as if I was five, referring to my parents as “Mummy” and “Daddy”. I became very restless, and when I cottoned on to the fact that there was a Costa downstairs I was FIXATED on going, regardless of my being permanently hooked up to a drip and feeding tube! I know I gave my doctor there a hard time, despite him being very understanding and playing on the Wii console with me!
“After that I was transferred back to Warwick. This was my favourite hospital, as I was closer to home and I was put in a bed next to a lovely girl from my school. We were the bed on the corner, where we certainly made ourselves at home with pillows from home and pictures and cards all over the wall. Here I was able to have more guests, including my dance family and friends from school. It was a huge pick me up. At one point we took over the whole Outpatients area! At this point I was up walking and down to a singular feeding tube. I was still struggling to eat and swallow, so I was relying on it for nutrients. As it came out of my nose, we ended up naming it Nelly.
“I was allowed home from Warwick Hospital on Christmas Eve, as I lived so close but had to go back to finish my treatment at 8am. We went as a family that Christmas morning and to our surprise, Santa had left my brother and I a parcel on my bed! Finally, I was discharged and I was then able to go to my Grandparent’s for the rest of Christmas day – a Christmas miracle.
Brave the shave
“Ten years later, I’m living in London and am feeling extremely grateful for life. Although I was lucky to have not been left with any physical implications, the mental after-effects remained. As I contracted the illness when I was a teenager, all normal mood swings were heightened. Forgetfulness, combined with extreme emotions such as anger and anxiety, led me to sessions with a clinical psychologist which gave me strategies and coping mechanisms which I use to this day.
“Now I’m braving the shave on 26 November to mark 10 years since I had meningitis. My target of £700 is so 10 young meningitis survivors can get support and coaching through Meningitis Now’s Believe & Achieve programme, something which resonates with me strongly.”
To support Jasmine’s efforts visit the GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/f75ceeb5