Sian's story

20th April 2019

Sian, from Bingham in Nottinghamshire, fell ill as a 2-year-old in 1995. Her father spotted four tiny reddish/purple bruises, which started alarm bells ringing with her mother, who recollected reading one of our disease leaflets

Sian L meningococcal meningitis case study

Sian was rushed to hospital where, fortunately, she recovered well, as she recounts here.

“In February 1995 I was a two year old, confident and outgoing little girl, but by March I had become a careful child who clung to her parents, cautious of everything."

“In-between I had contracted and recovered from meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia, a sudden and painful experience that I was too young to process or even nearly understand. I have held on to fractured memories of my time in hospital, but the majority of my story has been re-told to me by my mother."

“Until 3pm on Sunday 19 February 1995 I was fine. Then, suddenly I began to have excruciating pain in my legs. I had a high temperature, and over the next few hours my whole body began to ache and I became sleepy. My parents rang our on-call GP, who understandably concluded that the high temperature was causing the other symptoms, and that it was probably all due to a virus."

Wouldn’t eat or drink

“For the rest of the evening I wouldn’t eat or drink and didn’t pass water. I slept beside my mum that night, and at around 4am I woke up vomiting. This continued for a while and my parents assumed it was just another tummy bug, until my Dad noticed marks on my body. I had four tiny reddish/purple bruises in different places on my torso and arms, which immediately started alarm bells ringing in my mum’s mind."

“She had a vague recollection of reading about a purple rash in a Meningitis Trust leaflet and, although she couldn’t describe my marks as a rash, she was worried enough to ring our GP again. He was wonderful. He came straight out, gave me a penicillin injection and called an ambulance, and my parents are in no doubt that he saved my life."

“When we arrived at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham I was very poorly. This is one of the moments that I remember, when I was held down so they could put the needles in, but the doctors couldn’t find a vein to set up a drip, so they had to put a needle into my shin bone to syringe plasma directly into my bone marrow."

So many monitors I was hardly visible

“I then went into the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit where I was put into an induced coma and spent two days on a ventilator receiving antibiotics and a blood transfusion. I was attached to so many monitors and tubes that my mum said I was hardly visible."

“On the Tuesday I had a lumbar puncture and was moved onto the general children’s ward. When I was brought out of the coma I wouldn’t speak or really react to anyone. Just over a day later they brought a guinea pig onto the ward, sat it on my knee, and I suddenly smiled and found my words again."

“It wasn’t until just before I left the hospital on 1st March, after the final course of antibiotics, that it was confirmed that I had meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia. My parents were told later that two more hours delay and I would almost certainly have died."

Appreciate how lucky I was

“I continued to have headaches for a short period. Apart from that my physical health completely recovered, and I appreciate how lucky I was in this, but the little girl that came home was still not the same girl that had gone into hospital. My mental health had been badly affected, and anxiety and nocturnal panic attacks became a part of my life. I have learnt to manage these after-effects through the support of various people and methods, including information found on the Meningitis Now website."

“Despite my young age, I have held on to short memories of my time in hospital, both bad and good, but the best were moments with the other, older children on the ward, who tried their best to make me smile. My parents never left my side, and every action that the NHS doctors and nurses took at Nottingham’s QMC, from the gentlest to the most painful moments, are the actions that kept me alive, and I am thankful for every single one."

“My mum says that it was thanks to a Meningitis Trust leaflet, which informed her about the rash, that she understood the severity of my illness and called the GP again so quickly."

Potential to save a life

“Every conversation about meningitis and its symptoms has the potential to save someone’s life in the future by ringing those same alarm bells in a parent’s, or any person’s mind."

“Now, over 20 years later, I’m a young woman in a career I love, finishing off a PhD and feeling extremely blessed, all because someone volunteered their time to post a leaflet through our door."

“As I've grown older I've learnt more about how meningitis can affect the brain and cause damage that can have a significant impact on the mental health of survivors."

“It was after reading this information on Meningitis Now’s website that I could finally overcome some of the shame about my self-perceived 'weaknesses' and reach out for help. I learnt how to manage my mental health instead of letting it manage me, and really live the life that I had been blessed with.”

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