Paul's story

6th November 2014

Paul contracted viral meningitis the week before his 30th birthday. He suffered severe headaches, photophobia, sickness, a high temperature, fever, cold feet and aching and shivers. After several home visits by his GP and a call to Gdocs he was taken by ambulance to hospital

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Severe headaches

I first felt aches on the Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th August. By the Sunday night I had a full-blown fever and headaches and sensitivity to light. I was up through the night on the Sunday and backwards and forwards to the bathroom with sickness and any noise or light was unbearable.

I had visits to the house from GPs on Tuesday and Thursday as my condition worsened.  They both checked for meningitis but as there was no rash they did not send me to hospital but did advise me to go in if the condition worsened.

On the Thursday night my parents called Gdocs as things got worse, but I convinced them not to put me into hospital as I thought it was only a fever. Then, on the Saturday night/Sunday morning one week after the first symptoms, I had been up all night being sick, and awoke with the same symptoms as a stroke. My left arm was numb, and the left side of my mouth had drooped to one side and my tongue was numb.

Taken to hospital by ambulance

I was then taken by ambulance to hospital. I had ECGs and CT Scans on arrival. On the Sunday night the initial hooking up to the drip gave me a slight improvement, but then on the Monday I gradually got worse, and this deterioration continued all week, with delirium, headaches, sickness, fever, cold feet and shivers.

I was on a drip all week and could not eat, and barely keep water down. On the Wednesday I had my first lumbar puncture, which, after a lot of trying, failed to get any fluid from my spine.  They returned on the Thursday to try again and managed to get fluid but also found blood, which must indicate a brain issue. This then led to another head scan with a dye injected to ensure there were no brain issues. This came back clear and they put the blood down to the failed attempt the previous day. After all these tests I came back as negative. Apparently viral meningitis only comes up on around 80% of spinal fluid tests.

After this they released me on the Thursday night even though I still felt the same. I was at home for a third week with no improvement and absolutely freezing and still getting headaches, fevers, delirium, no sleep and cold feet. The GP visited again and said to go back into hospital which I did and they then diagnosed viral meningitis, but without knowing the cause.

I was released the same day and it took a fourth week before the fevers and delirium died down and I managed to get some sleep again and actually keep food down. At this point I had lost one stone in weight.

Horrible dizziness and exhaustion

Looking back over this first month now is a complete blur and I cannot remember a lot of things. Once the headaches and delirium and fevers died down a little bit I was managing to get some sleep again, but then I suffered this horrible dizziness and exhaustion. Walking short distances was absolutely taking it out of me. I still struggled with headaches if there was a lot of noise or stimulation.

After four weeks of treatment in and out of hospital, I was really conscious about being off work for so long and anxious to get back asap. I tried to push hard to do things to build up my strength and ended up back in bed for two days.

It was at this point my supervisor visited me at home and advised me to take all the time I needed to get better. They involved the onsite GP at work to review me and help with a reduced hours return to work. This helped me greatly and I stopped trying to get better and just let the virus run its course.

They reviewed me every fortnight and decided on the best working hours to slowly phase me back in. After two months off I worked 10 to 3 on Monday/Wednesday/Friday for two weeks until Xmas and continued on reduced hours until the middle of February.

The main issues were night-time driving as I was still susceptible to lights and glare and to ensure I always had a rest day after the days I was in the office.

I think they got it spot on. Now, about six months on, I am back to full fitness and I have put the weight that I lost back on.

Helpline a source of support

I called the Meningitis Now viral helpline a few times when I was recovering. The main issue for me was the lack of information being provided and the fact I did not know how long the recovery would take. There was very little support provided other than my friends and family. I did see a specialist afterwards who checked for immune system problems but these all came back clear.

I think now about six months on I am back to full fitness. However, I started going back to the gym last week and after one week felt physically exhausted.  Perhaps this is just my fitness level, but you question everything after having being so ill for so long.

I would like to thank the staff at the hospital as the help they provided for what I now know is a condition that is very difficult to diagnose and there is not really any treatment for was excellent.

Meningitis Now’s viral meningitis fact sheet was a comfort to me and the phone-calls to the helpline nurses were also a great help. You do not really know what is happening, how long things will last and when to start pushing to do anything to get better. Realising that you have to let it run its course rather than push too hard was the point when my recovery actually began to happen.

  • Petra

    Petra's story

    I was so weak I thought I was going to collapse

  • Dave

    Dave's story

    I want and need to help people who have directly and indirectly suffered with this horrendous disease

  • Lisa

    Lisa's story

    I woke up one morning and had the most excruciating head pain I’ve ever had

  • Jane

    Jane’s story

    Every time I sat up or moved my head felt so heavy and I was dizzy and uncoordinated