Peter O's story

2nd November 2021

Peter, from Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, fell ill two years ago. The 36-year-old had a range of symptoms, including a headache, aches all over his body, photophobia and a high temperature, and knew something was seriously wrong (as did his cat, Ru)

Peter O bacterial meningitis case study

However, he was turned away from A&E twice before his meningitis was diagnosed and successfully treated. Peter, who celebrated his recovery with a holiday in Cuba, tells his story here.

“I was looking forward to finishing work early on a Friday, as I had planned a whole week of annual leave. I was walking home with a horrible headache, but because I suffer from regular migraines and headaches I didn’t take too much notice of it. I took some paracetamol and tried to sleep it off. 

“When I woke up I still had the headache but carried on with my life as usual. By Saturday I felt pretty rough, like I was coming down with a flu, and I still had the headache and also developed pain all over my body. I took paracetamol and ibuprofen to try to get rid of the pain, but they didn’t work. 

“By Sunday evening I felt really unwell. I couldn’t eat, I still had the same headache from Friday, and an achy body, cold hands and feet, photophobia, temperature and neck stiffness. So, I went to A&E, where they diagnosed me with a minor chest infection and gave me antibiotics via IV – which I found a bit odd because I never had antibiotics via IV before. 

The symptoms returned

“After a few hours they sent me home with some antibiotics and I felt a bit better. But by Monday afternoon I felt even worse, all the symptoms returned and I couldn’t keep food or the antibiotics down (only water and a lot of it! – I was extremely thirsty continuously). 

“By this time I could not sleep for any longer than an hour and could not lay down as my head was hurting even more if I did. I remember I was slouching on the sofa trying to be comfortable and one of my cats, Ru, started to lick my scalp, which he had never done before. He stayed with me on top of the back pillow close to my head, which I found very comforting.

Peter O bacterial meningitis case study - Ru

Ru (top) with Thunder

“As things did not improve by Tuesday evening I decided to go back to A&E, only to be told by a doctor that I needed to wait longer for the antibiotics to kick in and they were not concerned as I ‘didn’t have fever’. They checked my temperature in my mouth, but because I was drinking lots of ice-cold water my mouth was cold. I did have a high temperature, I just didn’t realise. 

Started to seriously deteriorate

“My husband Craig called 111 on the Wednesday evening as my condition started to seriously deteriorate. My speech was slurry and I was sweating continuously. I was still unable to keep solid food or medicine down. The nurse said to go back to A&E if things didn’t improve. 

“On the Thursday Craig took me to my GP, where they sent me to the hospital with a letter concerning sepsis. The triage doctor was able to diagnose the meningitis from my symptoms. I did not have the rash, but I did have other symptoms of meningitis. 

“It was very scary, as I hadn’t stayed in hospital overnight for over 30 years. But I knew I was in good hands. The results from the lumbar puncture confirmed that I had bacterial meningitis. I stayed in the hospital for two weeks and the care I received was great. 

Support and someone to talk to

“However, apart from my family, I didn’t have anybody professional to talk to about the meningitis, the after-effects or how I would cope when I’m home. I was really worried that things would not improve. Now I know that there are charities out there, like Meningitis Now, where you can find support or just someone to talk to. Being able to read about other people’s stories and know that you are not alone made a big difference.

“I was very lucky, because I walked into the hospital with this horrendous disease and managed to walk out when I was discharged. My after-effects slowly disappeared over three months and I managed to return to work after nine weeks. My family, friends and work colleagues were very supportive and helped me to get myself back to a normality, so a HUGE thank you to them, the hospital workers, my GP and of course my two cats, Ru and Thunder!

“I now appreciate life more, enjoy holidays and doing things I want to do, and appreciate my family and friends more.”

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