Rina's story

23rd November 2017

Lee thought his wife Rina was suffering from a common cold and didn’t realise that her symptoms were indicative of something more serious. Lee from Luton in Bedfordshire shares their story in his own words

Rina

I need to start this by saying that like many people, I never really realised how nasty an illness meningitis can be. 

My wife Rina had a cold the weekend of 14 January 2017. As most people do, we thought it was just a common cold and didn't realise the symptoms she was suffering were more severe. 

Her hands and feet were cold and her neck aching. Rina went to work as usual on the Monday. She is a part time care worker for Headways, which provides care and support for people with brain injuries.

She arrived home that evening, Monday 16 January, after collecting our children from her mum and dad's, and as soon as she walked in the door I realised something wasn't right. 

Rina was always a strong, stubborn person, but when she walked in and asked me to remove her boots from her feet and take her to bed, alarm bells started ringing. 

I took her to bed and a few hours later I joined her. Obviously I was checking on her in the time before that. 

Seeing her walk into the ambulance broke his heart

That night was horrible. She was groaning in pain, and then started being violently sick and freezing cold. 

After a sleepless night, I told her I wasn't going to work, and that I would call an ambulance. With the little strength she had she told me to go to work and that she would be ok. 

I know people say that ignoring your partner sometimes is part of a relationship, but I thank god I ignored her that day. I then called 999, who in turn, sent an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived at around 7:30am and our eldest son Luca had left to go to work, and asked me to keep him updated. He is very much like his mum, and is very strong emotionally. 

I had to stay downstairs with our two youngest children Sonny, eight and Hannah, seven. Obviously they were very upset, but Hannah is also like her mum and stayed strong, whereas Sonny was devastated and in tears. 

Seeing her walk into the ambulance broke his heart, but Rina’s father and mother then turned up to take care of the kids for me, whilst I followed the ambulance to hospital. 

I knew they were with the best people possible, and that the kids would be happier with them. I couldn't send them to school because it wouldn't have been fair. 

I arrived at the Luton and Dunstable hospital soon after 8am and Rina had been sat down in a wheelchair in A&E. She was ghostly white - that wasn't my wife. 

I said to a nurse I was getting very worried about her and she felt the same and rushed her into the emergency area. 

I helped get Rina onto the bed, and however upsetting it was I had to be strong. I held her head whilst they gave her some pain killers and took blood tests. 

Rina started having a seizure and the nurse asked me to help restrain her. I held her head, and reassured her but then her eyes started rolling and her body stiffened up, which led to four or five more doctors and nurses to come rushing in.

I’m not embarrassed to say it, but I cried uncontrollably for the next few minutes. I had to hold her but I couldn't for much longer as it was breaking my heart. The pain and suffering she was going through was immense and I just couldn't bear to see that.

I left the cubicle and phoned Rina's sister Anna and her husband Tony. Rina and myself are very close to them, and I needed someone to help me cope. Rina had another sister working in the hospital but I couldn't contact her.  

I walked back into the cubicle and the senior nurse said they were pretty confident she had a severe form of meningitis. 

I was horrified, my head was spinning and I felt sick. My darling wife and my best friend who saved me through bad times before, was fighting for her life. 

They took Rina for a CT scan and that showed severe infection and swelling on the brain and spinal column. The doctor took me to one side and said that he would need to do a lumbar puncture to recognise the form she had.

They tried to do the lumbar puncture but couldn’t as Rina was fighting all the nurses and started seizing up again. This carried on for a while until they sedated her with some medications and moved her to ICU. 

The rest of the day was a blur, but all family members visited and couldn't believe it either. I had support, but I was shell shocked. 

I said to myself that she would want me to be with the kids, so I left to go home and ensure they were ok. I needed to let the medical staff do their work.

The hospital phoned me to say they were thinking about putting her into an induced coma. At 2:30am they phoned me and told me she had Neisseria strain of the infection, and that they had already started the treatment, but it was touch and go. It tore me in two. 

I had to be strong

My two young children wanted to stay with me that night, because they were really upset. I woke up to find my daughter looking at my phone, which had a photo of Rina on the page. I cuddled her and just wanted to cry, but I had to be strong. 

The next day I was at the hospital by 8am and they let me in to see Rina. I’d never seen anyone in a coma before, and to see my gorgeous wife in there fighting for life was so, so hard. 

I cried for hours and remember sitting there talking to her for three days straight, holding her hand and stroking her head and arms. I just couldn't believe it. 

There was a lovely nurse who took care of Rina all the way. The doctors had tried to wake her on the Thursday, but Rina got agitated so they decided to keep her in the coma until Friday. 

The doctor spoke to me and said she was still battling and that the infection was starting to drop, but there may be some after-effects. She was in no way out of the woods yet, but my baba was fighting all the way. 

I asked if the children could come up, but only Luca did as he is older and could understand. Anyway, I didn't want the kids seeing this. They said they would only allow it if Rina took a dramatic turn for the worse, to say goodbye.

On the Friday, the nurse phoned me to say that Rina was now out of the coma and the infection had dropped very low. I was overjoyed, and rushed to the hospital. 

I walked in the room and she turned round and cried. I had taken a photo of the three children with me and she gave a huge smile and broke her heart.

Over the next few days she improved hugely, and the kids came to see her on the Sunday - she hadn't seen them in six days, so this was emotional.

Rina came home on the Wednesday and I took three weeks off work to care for her, and then I dropped her to her parents each morning for the next few months. My work was excellent, and my manager helped me in any way possible.

My kids still have their mummy and I still have my wife

She is doing really well now, although she has hearing problems and weakness/tiredness issues - but we have learnt to live with them and thank god she is still here.

We have had support from Meningitis Now, and Lucie in particular has been a great help. I now donate monthly and I urge everyone else to do so.

I still have nightmares to this day and cannot forget the coma. It is very, very hard and it has knocked me for six. 

I thank god for saving my wife, but it has been such a hard year and the after-effects are huge. We will be moving house as Rina cannot cope with stairs anymore, and Sonny still cannot sleep properly. In many ways it has brought us closer together.

I am very down sometimes but am now getting help. Luca was my rock in that period and I thank god he was there. It knocked us for six, but my kids still have their mummy and I still have my wife.