Turning my experience into something positive enables me to have a future
This meant that as well as having meningitis, which is an infection and inflation of the lining of the brain, I also had encephalitis because there was internal swelling. On top of this, my body began dumping fluid into my head, which further increased the pressure - this is something called hydrocephalus. All in all, I was in serious trouble.
The meningitis came on very quickly and I was lucky that my mother found me unconscious so that I could be rushed to hospital. Even then though, it was a case of, for my family, taking it hour by hour. In terms of treatment, I was put into a medically induced coma to help reduce the swelling of my brain and taken to Bristol Children’s hospital where I remained unconscious for a week. For twenty four hours during this time I was sent to another hospital called Frenchay, where a tube was fitted to drain the fluid out of my brain. In total I was in Bristol for two weeks and had to have high strength intravenous antibiotics every day to get rid of the meningitis itself.
I had been severely ill and was honestly lucky to be alive. I was going to be lucky to wake up, but the doctors had no way of knowing what sort of damage I would be left with, if any. All they could tell my parents was that the area of most pressure had been at the parts which are responsible for mood and memory.
When I woke up though, initially there was just this huge wave of relief because I had woken up and then once they removed the ventilator tube, I could remember who my parents were. I could remember everything on the day I got ill up until falling unconscious. So we naïvely thought that that meant that I was okay.
It was only when I attempted to return to school full time, around seven months later, that problems began to appear and it probably took another few months for us as a family to fully recognise that something was going on. It was then that we were told that I had an Acquired Brain Injury. This means various things for different people. Personally I have problems with fatigue. I get tired easier than others and when I do my brain stops functioning the way it is supposed to. My main issues, as doctors predicted, are with mood and memory but I also struggle with concentration, slurred speech, blurred vision and assessing risk sometimes too. My brain injury is an on-going problem, but after nearly eight years (at time of writing) I have learnt how to live with it, for the most part.
When I was asked about becoming a Young Ambassador with Meningitis Now, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. As an organisation, they’ve always provided support for me and my family and we know that however much time passes they will always be a phone call or an email away. For me, the opportunity to be a part of that was massive.
Having meningitis was the biggest thing that has ever happened to me and it continues to dominate my life because of the long-term effects and that goes for my family too. Turning my experience into something positive enables me to have a future because whatever is going on with me I have something going on which is constructive.
To be involved with this awesome group of people and potentially help somebody else is a wonderful thing because I know that my experience is not completely unique, so perhaps I’ll be able to connect to somebody else who has gone through this, another young person who is starting the process of trying to live their lives again.