Sam L's story

9th October 2021

Sam, from Abbeymead in Gloucester, fell ill in 2019 with what she thought was the start of a cold. But the 23-year-old went from bad to worse and was admitted to hospital where meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia was diagnosed

Sam L's bacterial meningococcal meningitis story

Fortunately, she made a good recovery and is now keen to share her story to highlight the support that is available.

“I went to work on Monday 6 May 2019. I had started to develop a pain in my ankle and felt really drained and had done so for a few days. However, I had been moving house so I didn't think anything of it. I also developed a sore throat, which I assumed was the start of a cold.

“That night the sore throat got a bit worse so I assumed I was developing a cold and used some First Defence nasal spray (little did I know what was really going on). I went to bed around midnight which was unusual for me at the time because I was a bit of a night owl.

“An hour and a half later at 1:30 I woke up and I felt horrendous. I couldn't stop shaking. I felt sick and my head hurt. The sore throat developed into a pain in my throat. I struggled downstairs to get some water and tried to go back to sleep but I couldn't. I felt sick, so I lay on the floor in the bathroom, shaking and feeling really ill. 

Knew something was wrong

“I didn't want to wake my mum up, because she had work early. However, it got to the point where I knew something was wrong and I decided I had to wake her up. I had been checking for a rash but there wasn’t one (I never got one at all). Meningitis was in my head though because six weeks before a girl I went to school with passed away from it.

“My mum realised I had a temperature and could sense there was something wrong with me, so she phoned 111 and they said to take me to the out of hours doctor at the hospital. So, we went down there and the doctor did a urine test and told me she didn't know what was wrong. She said it could be the flu or tonsillitis and told my mum to keep an eye on me and sent me home. 

“My mum still went to work but asked my grandma to come round and for a brief time my grandma's best friend, because my grandma had an eye appointment. I don't remember much about that day apart from my grandma putting a cold flannel on my head and checking me for a rash. I briefly remember my mum bringing me a cheese sandwich and a bottle of apple Lucozade in her lunch hour, and I also remember my grandma's friend talking about how lovely the house was.

Physically couldn’t move

“The pain in my neck started heading down my shoulders into my chest. I physically couldn't move without being in agony in my neck and chest. I couldn't lift my head without using my hands and my headache was the worst headache I'd ever had. As someone who's suffered from migraines I know a thing or two about headaches, but this was worse than any migraine I'd ever had. 

“My mum rang the hospital again and they sent out an emergency response doctor, who checked me over and called for an ambulance and decided to rush me into A&E at 4:30am.

“I went into resus and spent a fair few hours in there. I tried to go to the toilet however I couldn't; all I could pass was some white mucus. I was taken to get an x-ray, and while I was waiting I started to feel really sick again and went grey. Apparently my lips went the same colour as my skin. The nurse called a doctor who said they needed to take me back to resus, so they brought a portable x-ray machine to resus and did it there. 

Lost my vision

“I also had a CT scan but I can't remember at what point of the day that was. I was also on the books for ICU and the head consultant from ICU came down and spoke to me because my blood pressure and temperature were very unstable. He asked me some questions to assess me. He didn't say where he was from to me because he didn't want to worry me. Luckily though I didn't need to go to ICU.

“There was also a point where I lost my vision, so they had to give me some medication through my cannula.

“At this point they were treating me for sepsis. They decided to put me on a ward, where I spent the first night I was in hospital.

“The next day they got my blood test results back and that's when they found the meningococcal bacteria in my blood stream. I had to speak on the phone to someone from environmental health and tell them anyone I had been in close contact with who needed medication in case they'd contracted it from me. Luckily there was only my mum and my (now ex) girlfriend. These were the only two people who were allowed to visit me. My medication was then altered to treat the sepsis and meningitis and I was moved into side room 2, which is where I spent the next week of my life, getting three doses of IV medication three times a day until I'd finished my doses and was allowed to go home.

Coming out of hospital

“After I came out of hospital I wasn't really given any support or explanation as to what I went through. I felt so in the dark because none of the doctors could tell me what happened. So, I went looking for my own research, which is where I found out about Meningitis Now. Through their information I found out that my body started attacking the meningitis bacteria as it entered my blood stream, causing sepsis. With the information from Meningitis Now and the people I've interacted with through the forums I now understand a lot more about what I went through and how my feelings are valid. I know I am extremely lucky to have been left with my life and minimal after-affects and am grateful every day for that.

“I have decided after all this time I am ready to share my story because there is still so much that is unknown about meningitis and its after-effects. People don't know the signs and the symptoms to look out for and they also don't know the impact it leaves in your life. I look like I've fully recovered, but I am still suffering with the after-effects today.

“So, if you have had meningitis and feel like you should be better, know that your feelings are completely valid. And if you know someone who suffered from meningitis, listen to them and support them because even if they're recovered, they could still be suffering and need support. However, please take care of yourself too because meningitis affects the people around you too.

“I hope anyone who has been affected by this horrible illness, no matter what the form, knows you are supported and the things will be okay. You are a warrior! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.”

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