At the start of this year, I set myself out the challenge to run at least 5 full marathons before the end of the year, unfortunately shortly after that I was admitted to hospital for near 2 months with a form of bacterial meningitis - meningococcal. The horrible, nasty and dangerous strain of the infection, talk about bad luck aye!
I had been misdiagnosed by the "D-Doc" service as having "Neck and Back pain", given a 3 day supply of Valium and sent on my way home to rest and recover. To be honest, if my family doctor hadn't followed up a missed phone call hours later from that morning and told me to get into hospital immediately I probably wouldn't be writing this now.
Something I never would have expected to come down with, something I never imagined to be serious (ah sure a few pills and rest and it's gone... nahhh). Even as I lay in hospital surrounded by family cancelling plans and arrangements to be there for me in some way, I still didn't realise the gravity of the situation I was in... I plodded around the hospital when I had the strength to, I moaned about the fact that I was stuck there and was being jabbed with all sorts of needles and having samples drawn multiple times throughout the day. Every single day I had people telling me that I won't be the same for a long time, the recovery process is long and slow and that there would be a number of side effects... I shrugged this off and convinced myself that "it's me, I'll be grand and I won't experience half of these things that others have". Boy was I wrong...
When I got out of hospital I was weak, so weak that any form of exertion left me with bad headaches and heavy breathing. I was always tired and lethargic, mood swings were common and the lack of focus was horrible.
Months later to this day, I'm still struggling with some of these affects. It was months of failed attempts to start exercising again, workouts were short and felt pointless, running was tiring, boring and hard to focus on any goals not to mention the headaches after training - jeeeez! I plugged away at training and improving in all aspects of my life, and started to see progress. Completing a 10km training run was a breath of fresh air, I knew I was back on the right path, just at a different pace. I promised myself that I would still take part in the Dublin Marathon this year as I have the past few years, this time I knew it'd be my toughest (little did I know how tough).
It was only recently while reflecting back on the past few months with some family members that I discovered a very blunt fact, a very real truth that most people close to me probably didn't want to tell me. Essentially, while in hospital there came a point where the doctors spoke with my parents away from me and said "we've given him everything we can, the rest is out of our hands. It's pretty much up to his body". Now, when I heard this blurted out accidentally in conversation a few weeks ago I was taken aback. Suddenly everything all came to one and it was one big realisation of the past few months and how much danger I actually was in, how the end result could have been so much different. Since then I've been doing a lot of reflecting and looking back on my own time, thinking from a different point of view ... Gathering thoughts.
It's safe to say that meningitis has changed me! Yes I am still experiencing a lot of annoying and frustrating side effects, I am still struggling to get back to 'the old me' as they say. I am a different person now, but that's not a bad thing... Realistically meningitis has changed my outlook on a lot of things, my approach to the way I do things and given me a sense appreciation. (Don't get me wrong, meningitis sucks... But I'm around to say that. I'm able to do certain things with my life). I am extremely lucky and grateful to all those doctors & nurses in the Mater Hospital, YOU'RE ALL SOUND!
Sadly, many of those who contract meningitis aren't as lucky. With that said, charities such as Meningitis Research Foundation are out there doing what they can!