“6 August 2011. A day no different to any other, or so I thought. On this day I was a normal, fit, healthy, 22-year-old, no different to any other. Little did I know that when I woke up that day, things would never be the same again.
“I went to bed as normal, and was woken at 2am with what I can only describe as the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt, like someone was stabbing me in the back of the head. I took two paracetamols, two ibuprofen, and lay back in bed.
“I never got back to sleep and by 10am, with the pain only getting worse, I knew something wasn’t right. After a call to NHS 24, I was told to go straight to the hospital. By 2pm, I was in and out of consciousness, vomiting and unable to walk. After three days in hospital a brain tumour, and a bleed on the brain were ruled out, and I was diagnosed as having viral meningitis.
Almost good news
“It was almost ‘good news’ that it was ‘just’ meningitis, as my mum had been prepared for the news it might be a brain tumour. ‘Just’ meningitis, purely because I didn’t understand how vicious this disease could be.
“Within the two years from being diagnosed, I had suffered constant daily migraines, and debilitating pain, with bouts of feeling worse every so often. I’ve been back and forth constantly to doctors, hospitals, and neurologists.
“I tried to get on with things the best I could as I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, and tried to ignore how ill I felt, as I looked the picture of health, so didn’t think anyone would believe me. I was tried and tested on a total of six different preventative drugs, each of which I had adverse reactions to, from daily sickness, to rashes, and a period of three months with little or no sleep.
“With each drug I had to slowly increase the dose to build up resistance, give it time to settle, and then slowly wean myself off them to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Along with this, I understandably, developed a strong addiction to prescription painkillers.
I had Mollarets meningitis
“On 22 July 2013, after things had been progressively getting worse, and in the weeks running up to it, no amount of painkillers (ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin, codeine, tramadol) were giving me relief, things took a turn for the worse. I had just temporarily moved back in with my mum the week before this, and thank goodness I had. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. I owe my mum my life – she knew straight away.
"A flare-up of meningitis had caused this debilitating pain, and I had accidentally overdosed. This relapse was a “flare-up” of viral meningitis since I hadn’t fully recovered the first time, and I was told I had Mollarets meningitis, which lies dormant, and can recur in the brain at any time.
“It took four months for me to get back on my feet after this, and my mum became my full-time carer for a while, as I was so ill. Regardless of my age this can’t have been easy for her to see her child suffering so much.
“I can’t even begin to imagine what I, and this illness, put her through. I still struggle, I get really good spells for weeks at a time when I feel “normal” , but this is sometimes outweighed by the bad spells, when I can be in bed for days or weeks. It’s very unpredictable, but I do everything in my power to try and help my body. It sometimes gets me very down, knowing I’m left with chronic migraines, fatigue, depression, sight and hearing difficulties, dizziness, nausea, memory problems, and the constant thought in the back of my head that it may flare up again at any time.
“I had quite a big ovarian cancer scare in September last year, which thankfully came back clear. But doctors think this was caused by the same infection that caused Mollarets. The after-effects seem to be never ending!
Giving back to Meningitis Now
“Then I need to remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones, a survivor of this awful disease. I’m on various medications to try and help now, but still need strong painkillers daily. I’ve tried reflexology, counselling, acupuncture, massages, a holistic diet and will soon receive cranial osteopathy treatment thanks to Meningitis Now to try and help with the pain.
“They were a great support to me during my illness, and I somehow managed to push myself to complete the London Marathon in April 2014 to raise over £7,000, as well as trying to raise as much awareness as possible. That’s what it’s all about, raising awareness. I will continue to raise as much awareness as I can so that my health deteriorating hasn’t been for nothing.
“My brother, Nathan, took part in this year’s London Marathon for Meningitis Now, raising just over £5,000, and my mum is hoping to take part in next year’s event. It will be our goal for the foreseeable future to continue raising awareness of meningitis and funds for the wonderful charity Meningitis Now.
“I’m hoping, health depending, to take part in next year’s Patagonia Trek too!
“I knew nothing about meningitis until it completely changed my life, so if my story can help even one person understand, or one survivor know that they’re not alone, then it’s all been worth it. It’s been difficult reliving it all - thanks for taking the time to read it.”