Sharon's story

20th November 2019

To celebrate starting to feel better and to acknowledge all the support her partner had given after recovering from viral meningitis Sharon married her partner Neil. It had taken 21 months to start feeling her old self and now she is passionate about raising awareness of viral meningitis. The 42-year-old from Poole in Dorset, tells her story here

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“The day before St Valentine’s Day 2018 I went to work with a headache. By lunchtime I could barely speak and I struggled to drive home.

“After having a sleep by 3am I felt very unwell and phoned 111, who requested an ambulance.

“Over the following two weeks I was admitted to hospital four times. I had CT scans and two MRI scans to rule out a suspected bleed or stroke. I had a lumbar puncture, which at the time was not conclusive.

Go home and rest

“I was then told I had a virus that would take up to six weeks to recover from and I should go home for full rest. 

“I saw a neurologist who 100 per cent felt I had meningitis, given my symptoms and the severity of my headache (IV morphine still struggled to take the pain away). I couldn't put my head on a pillow for months, due to the pain in the back of my head.

“My neck was stiff, the left side of my body constantly went numb and I had pins and needles in my legs and feet. The nausea was severe and the headaches were like child birth  and this went on for many months. The photophobia never left and remains at a heightened level even now. I struggle to go into shops, coffee shops and restaurants which has affected how I socialise with friends and family. 

Six months off work

“I had six months off work and the neurologist was very supportive to ensure I didn't push myself too quickly. It took another six months of phased return to work to get back to work fully. I have a fantastic manager Eloise who has been very supportive. I have a special lamp at work so that I can avoid artificial lights. I am unable to travel with work which affects meetings, events and training but Eloise has supported me over the past 21 months for which I am very grateful.

“As the mother of a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old it was very difficult to get them to school and nursery. I became unable to watch television, listen to music, watch them on the swings, dance and be my usual very active self. My daughter Olivia still asks if I will be taken away in an ambulance. Whilst I am much better than last year having the lights off and spending time in bed due to fatigue and severe headaches upsets her. She asks when mummy will be better. Ethan has adapted to mummy having the lights off, not being able to watch T.V. or go swimming and on some days admits it is less fun. Having those special moments back just the little things like the lights on, listening to music mean a lot to us all having missed them for so long.

“I am unable to drive far, which affects me driving to see my family in Gloucestershire which I used to do every two weeks without even thinking about the road trip. Neil drives us regularly so I can see my family, for which I am very grateful.

“It has taken 21 months but I now feel I am turning a corner. 

Little information on recovery

“There is very limited information about how long it takes to recover and the after-effects of viral meningitis. It doesn’t take just two weeks for so many people. Having read other people’s stories I felt a sense of relief and acceptance that my recovery was like others and that it would take time.

“Taking each day as it comes, pacing yourself and being mindful of each moment all help when every day is a new normal. Not comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do is difficult, but accepting what you can do each day is important.  

“My partner has been amazing, his patience, kindness  and commitment have meant everything to me.

Look forward to 2020 with my family

“I still had to pace myself on my wedding day by sleeping at midday and having no lights at the wedding. Knowing that my husband accepts me and my health was a very special day.  A very special moment was finally managing one dance again with my daughter without feeling my head would explode!

“Recovering from viral meningitis takes time and we are all different. More awareness of the after- effects and how it affects people’s lives at home and at work is something I feel passionate about now. 

‘Last Christmas was a difficult time with the lights, fatigue and headaches. I am hoping this Christmas will be a good one and I look forward to 2020 with my family.

“I hope this story gives hope to others who may be struggling with the after-effects of viral meningitis. You are not alone and there is hope.”

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