Joanna's story

3rd March 2010

When Joanna Rigby fell ill at work she thought she was coming down with flu but her condition worsened and she was rushed to hospital with meningitis

Joanna

"It was March 3, 2010. I awoke and just felt like I was coming down with a bit of a cold and I had a mild sore throat. I went to work and a couple of colleagues commented that I looked pale. My cold symptoms continued and I had developed a headache and felt quite sick.

"I went to the bathroom and fainted. I was only unconscious for a few minutes and my colleagues gave me some water and got me sitting down. I did not feel up to driving home, so my mum was called to come and get me so I could spend some time at her home until I felt better.

"When mum collected me she commented that I looked very unwell and by this time my sore throat was worse. Although I protested mum took me to her doctors. I was given a check-up and they diagnosed me with tonsillitis, prescribed penicillin and suggested that I was isolated for 48 hours as tonsillitis was contagious.

"My mum lives in an over 50s complex and there is a guest flat so mum booked me into there. All I wanted to do was sleep, so after mum gave me a light snack and something to drink she left me to sleep and said she would not disturb me in the morning but let me lie in and I was to call her when I woke up."

A terrible headache

"I woke around 6am with the most excruciating pain in my head. It was like my brain was on fire. I got up and got some water and just thought if I slept it would go. I really remember nothing after that until I woke up in hospital.

"At around 7am, Mum had an overwhelming urge to see how I was and left her 1st floor apartment to visit me on the 3rd floor. What she found was a person who was totally delirious and making no sense whatsoever. After calling the doctor, she was told to call the emergency services. Although I was conscious the entire time, I do not remember anything at all. Mum has told me that I acted like I was going mad, shouting, screaming, trying to climb on furniture etc.

"When I first arrived at hospital they actually thought that I was having some sort of mental breakdown and there was even talk of transferring me to another hospital that specialised in mental health. It was only because an A&E nurse who was not assigned to me recognised the symptoms and was adamant that I had meningitis. They started to treat me for meningitis even though they were not certain at that point what was wrong with me."

Meningitis confirmed

"Alarmingly even though I had suspected meningitis I was put on the general A&E ward and not put into an isolation room for several hours. The next day they finally confirmed to my mum that I had meningitis, but as I had been given penicillin they did not know if it was viral or bacterial as the results were unclear.

"I think the worse part was feeling so ill but until they knew which strain I had, I was not allowed to see any family for four days. It was eventually confirmed that I had meningococcal septicaemia. I was in hospital for 12 days and was told by the doctors how lucky I had been, but to be honest it was only when I visited my mum's doctor four days after leaving hospital that I realised how very lucky I had been.

"Both mum and I look back on what happened now and are very alarmed at the slowness of diagnosis and the lack of information that was given while I was in hospital. I feel extremely blessed and amazed that I have recovered with no after-affects apart from getting tired very easily. I think there is much work to be done to ensure medical professionals are better trained to spot the sometimes not completely obvious symptoms."

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