Meningitis Now Young Ambassador Jemma Pressman

I am using my experience to do something positive and try and raise awareness of meningitis

Jemma P

Young Ambassador

Hi, I’m Jemma. In August 2012 I got my A-Level results and found out I got into the University of Leicester to study law - I was looking forward to my new adventure.

The first year flew by and I met some amazing people. I had an enjoyable summer then in September I started my second year and did what all students do - I enjoyed fresher week!

On the night of Sunday 13 September I began to feel unwell, I had a stiff neck, I ached, I was vomiting and felt generally unwell. I spent the rest of the week at home and I began to feel better. However on Friday 18th I had a really bad headache which made me sick and by the early hours of Saturday morning the excruciating pain wouldn't go. I kept being sick, I couldn't stand light and I ached so much.

I was advised to go straight to A&E where my condition deteriorated. I had significant swelling in the linings of my brain and was rushed into emergency brain surgery. Tests identified I had meningitis strain Y and encephalitis. 

I don't remember much of the early days, I was confused and didn't understand where I was or what happened. I couldn't move anything when I first woke up and I couldn't breathe without assistance of a machine.

I had to relearn to do the basic things, like how to swallow so I could eat and drink, how to move my arms and legs, how to breathe again. After three and a half months I came off the ventilator and was able to breathe on my own. My right side was getting stronger and slowly my left side was starting to move.

In February 2014 I went to rehab to undergo intense physiotherapy and, after spending nearly a year in hospital, I finally went home on October 13 2014.

I thought everything would be okay when I returned home but my whole life had been turned upside down.

I'm practising walking and getting stronger but building up my muscles is still a slow process, especially as my left side is still significantly weaker. This results in my being dependant on people to help me if I need assistance.   

But the future is beginning to look hopeful again. I have begun physio and have started counselling with the help of Meningitis Now. This has helped me come to terms with the things I have experienced and allowed me to get myself back to normal life. Even though the road to recovery is long I am making progress every day with the support of my family and friends.

I go horse riding once a week which is strengthening my muscles and I get to meet new people. I practice walking with a frame and I'm also volunteering for Meningitis Now. 

I am using my experience to do something positive and try and raise awareness of meningitis. I found it important to share my story so that other people are aware that meningitis is not something that only affects children. – we all guilty of thinking meningitis will never happen to you. 

Raising awareness of the symptoms will give people a greater chance of spotting the signs and taking the relevant steps to ensure the best possible outcome. The more people know about meningitis the more lives we can save. The quicker you act, the more of the person you save.

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