After a traumatic journey home, following several misdiagnoses of her condition, viral meningitis was confirmed and she is now slowly getting back to full health and fitness with her parents’ support. She recounts her dramatic story here.
“I caught meningitis while I was volunteering in Malaysia, at a marine conservation project on a remote island, so not an ideal place! I hadn't been very well for a few days, having headaches and feeling generally not myself, but I put this down to the heat and difficult living conditions on the campsite and the fact that I was diving every day too. Lots of people at the campsite were also ill, so I didn't think too much of it."
“One morning I woke up with a very bad headache, which I thought was a migraine, so I went to my tent to lie down. Within about an hour I was in the worst pain I've ever experienced – a throbbing intense pain in my head and neck, worse than any migraine or pain I've ever felt before."
“I also couldn't move my head from side to side or look down, my neck and back were in agony. I was throwing up every hour or so, and every time I ate or tried to sip water, and I had a really high fever and was so dizzy that the room was spinning. I soon started to feel so unwell, especially as it was boiling hot in my tent."
Organised a boat
“Some of the staff tried to give me some painkillers but I couldn't keep them down and was just lying on the floor crying. Eventually they organised a boat to take me to the mainland and I had to get help to walk to the boat as I was so dizzy. The boat journey was one of the worst experiences I've ever had, as it was quite bumpy and every time we hit the water I was in so much pain in my head, neck and back."
“I was with a friend I made at the project, and as soon as we arrived she organised for us to go to a clinic, where I explained my symptoms and said that I thought it could be meningitis. I remembered being told when I was a child that if you can't touch your chin to your chest then you could have meningitis."
“They took blood tests and put me straight onto some antibiotics, painkillers and a drip, but as they couldn't see a rash, the doctor diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and sent me away after a few hours with some antibiotics."
Felt worse and worse
“We went to a hotel and I just felt worse and worse and the pain in my head was unbearable, and I couldn't even drink water. My friend had to leave, so I was just on my own in the hotel and unable to leave the room for three nights. As I didn't feel better I went back to the clinic, and they referred me to a hospital in a larger city. So the next day one of the staff drove me to the airport and I flew there."
“At the hospital I was again put on a drip and had lots of tests done and was then diagnosed incorrectly with decompression sickness. After having an MRI scan, I was told I maybe had a brain aneurysm and I should fly home for further tests, which was very scary, as I was there alone."
“After five days in hospital, I then had a very long journey home of over 24 hours. When I got back to the UK, I went to a doctor and was told that I had probably had a brain haemorrhage and should go straight to A and E, which was so terrifying."
“My mum and I then went to the hospital, and again I had lots of tests and brain scans, and was given a few different potential diagnoses, but finally it was suggested that I have a lumbar puncture. After about 12 hours in the hospital, we got the results of the lumbar puncture back, which showed that I had viral meningitis."
Glad to get an explanation
“I was actually so happy to hear that, although it sounds strange! It had been such a long and traumatic process trying to find out what was wrong, and so scary hearing the different things I could have, that I was really glad I had something that could be explained and that I could recover from."
“It's been over a month now since I caught meningitis and I already feel so much better. I had a headache up until a few days ago and now the only after-effects that I have are tiredness, as well as back pain and dizziness, which I believe are from the lumbar puncture. I'm definitely still recovering from the mental trauma of having such a serious illness alone so far from home, and of truly feeling like I was close to dying."
“The main thing that this experience has taught me is to trust my own intuition and instinct regarding my own health. I knew that I was really unwell and had to get to a hospital and doctor, and I think that it was really vital that I did get the emergency boat and go straight to a clinic and go on a drip. I'm not sure what would have happened to me if I had stayed there in my tent as I was so dehydrated and in such a bad state."
Could have saved a lot of time and trauma
“I also wish that I had more strongly suggested that I thought I could have meningitis, as it would have saved a lot of time and trauma if I had been correctly diagnosed from the beginning. Luckily I had viral meningitis, as if I had had bacterial meningitis it would have been terrible and I doubt I would still be here, considering I wasn't correctly diagnosed for about two weeks. I learnt that meningitis doesn't always cause a rash too!"
“The experience also left me so grateful to everyone who helped me at the time by organising to get me on a boat, to the clinic, and then to the hospital. It made all the difference and really illustrated how important it is to help someone who is ill, to take it seriously and to check on them, rather than just leaving them to get on with it. Illnesses can quickly escalate and acting quickly can save someone's life."
“At the moment I am recuperating at my parents’ house and resting as much as possible. I work as a yoga teacher so haven't been able to go back to work yet, but I'm so lucky to have a supportive family to look after me and I plan to get additional help from Meningitis Now if I need it.”