One evening in March 2010, Lynne Harding from Aldershot fell asleep after feeling unwell. She woke up four days later in hospital; she had contracted both pneumococcal and viral meningitis
Lynne, then 46, had been suffering from painful joints and flu-like symptoms for a few weeks, but as she had recently started a new job in a day nursery, she put it down to germs that she may have picked up from the children. One Friday morning she was due to go to London for the weekend to celebrate her sister’s 40th birthday, but she woke with a terrible earache and was unable to make the trip.
"I was really looking forward to it," said Lynne. "But I felt so ill I had to make my apologies and stay in bed. I tried taking painkillers but it didn’t make any difference; the pain was excruciating. Despite this, I hoped I would feel better after a sleep and even talked about meeting up with my sister and friends later."
Most of the morning was spent sleeping on and off, then in the afternoon Lynne started vomiting continuously.
"Even then I didn't imagine it could be anything serious. I was just still so upset that my weekend had been ruined."
That night, feeling drained, Lynne fell asleep early at around 8pm. She remembers nothing more than this, until the moment she woke up after spending four days in intensive care at Frimley Park Hospital.
"I woke up bewildered. It was soon explained to me why I was in hospital and how lucky I was to be alive. My husband and family had been told that due to the severity of the illness, I may not make it."
A family's nightmare
As the situation was explained to her, more details emerged. She was told that on the Sunday morning she appeared to be awake, but was unresponsive. Her husband, Lance, assumed that she was just tired as she had had a very restless night, and popped out with their son Conor.
During the morning Lynne's other son, and Conor's twin brother, Cameron, then 14, realised that something was very wrong and that she was not at all well.
"Cameron was posting status updates on Facebook saying that I was acting strange," said Lynne. "He said I was looking at him as if I didn't know who he was. He tried to make me stay in bed, and said I was burning hot so tried giving me some water and even Calpol, but I was having none of it."
Knowing that his mum was not acting her usual self and that she was clearly very ill, Cameron rang his dad to explain what was going on and an ambulance was quickly called. Shortly after, the paramedics arrived and immediately suspected meningitis due to Lynne's confused and aggressive behaviour. On arrival at A&E, Lynne was given a lumbar puncture, scans and several blood tests which would confirm she had contracted pneumococcal meningitis. Her family maintained a vigil by her bedside, willing her to live and praying for a miracle. Thankfully, their prayers were answered.
On the mend
"When I woke up I had double vision and my eyes were crossed. I felt very sick and dizzy; my ears still hurt and were full of fluid. That same afternoon, my face became covered in blisters. I had more tests, and was diagnosed as having viral meningitis as well as pneumococcal."
Gradually Lynne got better; and after nearly four weeks of treatment in hospital, she was finally discharged and sent home to rest.
The road to recovery has been a long one, and Lynne still suffers from occasional headaches and has constant pain in her limbs. Despite this, she is just grateful to be alive.
She said: "All in all, I'm just so lucky to be here and my after-effects are not too drastic; it certainly could have been a lot worse. I do feel very emotional all the time; especially when I hear people talking about what happened as I have no recollection of the four days I missed. My family and friends were fantastic and still are; especially Cameron, who did the right thing and probably saved my life."
A message to others
Lynne believes that everyone needs to be more aware that meningitis can affect anyone at any time.
"Many people think meningitis is caught mostly by small children, teenagers or elderly people but this is not always the case. The symptoms are not always easy to spot, as they can be very similar to the flu."
It took Lynne a long time to return to a working environment, and even now she suffers from low confidence, but she was not put off working with children and thoroughly enjoys her job as an Early Years Assistant.
She is grateful for the support of Meningitis Now and for it being there for her and her family.
"My husband has raised money for Meningitis Now by running the British 10k. We also used their excellent counselling service, which helped my husband to understand a bit more of what I had been going through emotionally. They are a lifeline."