Ted’s marathon effort after meningitis recovery

17th February 2023

The London Marathon is back to its April date this year and we have a full team of runners donning our tangerine tops to take part. Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing the stories of some of our team members. Please support them if you can. Here we hear from team member Ted Burnham, who was 18 when he fell ill with meningitis

Ted’s marathon effort after meningitis recovery

“I first encountered Meningitis Now back in Summer 2018 when I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis (MenB).

“It has taken me a while to get round to sharing my story, mainly because I wanted to forget about my own experience of meningitis, and also because I’m not one that loves the spotlight. However, I have always felt a need to share my experience for the following reasons and now feels the right time to do so.

“Firstly, as time has passed since I was ill, I have come to realise that it wasn't me that struggled most, but it was my close family and friends. Some have mentioned that they had Googled the disease at the time and had seen the high mortality rate and levels of life-changing, long-term problems that can occur. From my own research, I know that the narrative surrounding the disease, whether that be via the internet or by word of mouth, is full of doom and gloom.

Raise awareness of a positive outcome

“I really want to raise awareness of positive outcomes and try to provide some hope and comfort to people. If I am able to help even just one person have something to cling on to and see that there may be light at the end of the tunnel, then that would be great.

“Secondly, the experience was terrifying for me and I want to raise awareness and funds to contribute towards a world where nobody loses their life, or are left with life-changing after-effects from meningitis. I want to support this incredible charity and give something back to all those who supported me.

“I am keen to encourage a much more open conversation about the disease – by sharing experiences to raise awareness of symptoms and help others in their recovery, showing them that they're not alone. Throughout my recovery, some of the struggles shared by others through Meningitis Now have resonated and helped me to relax a bit more about my own situation.

Couldn’t hit the ball

“I was 18, had just finished my first year at university and was back home for summer. I was out playing the 9-hole golf course, when we got to about the 8th hole and all of a sudden I couldn’t hit the ball. My mates had played ahead, which to be fair wasn’t a rarity, and I was way behind still attempting to try and make some sort of contact with the ball. I then remember looking up to see my friends waiting at the flag and I was dragging the ball along with my club. I started to feel lethargic, out of it and anxious, as I knew something wasn’t right.

“I walked past my mates, told them I didn’t feel well, jumped the wall and walked straight home. It is only about a two-minute walk from my house, but I remember how tired I felt walking home and how much of a struggle it was carrying my clubs. I made it to the front door, knocked and my mum answered. I threw my clubs down in the hall, muttered to her that I didn’t feel well and that it felt a bit serious.

A bit of a blur

“The next 24 hours are a bit of a blur to me. Everyone had gone to work and school thinking I just had a normal bug. I was lying in bed with a banging headache, vomiting and sweating, when I messaged my parents to ask them to bring more painkillers home. My mum messaged back to tell me that there were Lemsips in the cupboard.

“My sister came home from school, brought me some food and I think she immediately sensed something wasn’t right so called my dad. He arrived home to check on me but everything seemed to be reasonably okay at that point and I was still thinking and talking normally.

“I then started to get red blotches on my legs and within about five minutes I had red blotches all over me. My dad is a doctor and he seemed fairly relaxed, but he often does when any of us our ill. I usually assume this is because he sees things like this on a daily basis.

A much darker purple mark

“The blotches then settled, my dad seemed comfortable and told me that I’d just caught something viral. As he was about to leave the room I noticed a much darker purple mark on my thigh, about the size of a postage stamp. I asked my dad whether he thought anything of it. He had a look and responded with a ‘hmm.’ Next thing I remember was my dad being on the phone to the hospital. At that point I was stressing and knew something was up. I was shouting at him asking why he was calling the hospital and he responded that he just wanted to get a second opinion. I don’t remember anything after that other than my dad driving like a maniac towards the hospital.

“By the time I got to the hospital I couldn't see, hear, walk or talk. I was given intravenous antibiotics, moved to intensive care and then placed in an induced coma to enable my brain to recover. Twice each day the medical team lifted the anaesthetic to try and wake me up, but it wasn’t until the fifth day that they succeeded. This was a worrying time for family and friends who again, I know had Googled and read stories of people never waking from these comas.

“I spent about two further weeks in hospital, aching all over, with  a headache worse than I thought would ever be possible. I had a CT brain scan which showed no evidence of damage or fluid, but the doctors said that disseminated intravascular coagulation had started to kick in and I was probably hours away from it becoming fatal, or at least losing limbs.

Shows how quickly meningitis can develop

“From presenting symptoms to being in intensive care within 24 hours shows just how quickly meningitis can develop and highlights the importance of being aware of the symptoms.

“Also, I had actually had all of the standard pre-uni jabs that were recommended and unfortunately just picked up a rarer version of meningitis. However, I think that this still indicates the importance of getting the jabs available to you as it can be too easy to think ‘that won’t happen to me.’

“I have since made a full recovery, finished uni with a first and have a full-time job with a financial services company in Liverpool. When I say full recovery, I suppose I'll never know if it has affected me long-term and if I’m honest, I find that the hardest part of it all. I've more or less come to the conclusion that it is not something worth worrying about and I try to just enjoy and live life to the best of my ability. As cringey as it all sounds, it did give me a renewed outlook on life. It made me appreciate the good moments more and I certainly do much more than I did beforehand.

Brought me closer to people

“It also acted as a useful reminder not to take life too seriously and brought me closer to people around me. Thanks again to all those that helped and supported me at the time – you know who you are.

“I hope this helps to provide comfort to some reading this, that there can be good outcomes to this dreadful disease that hurts so many. If anyone would like to contact me with any questions or just to talk then please don’t hesitate – I’m always happy to chat.

“Also, if anyone fancies a day out in London on the day of the Marathon it would be great to see people for a pint or two after the run."

You can support Ted’s efforts on his fundraising page.