My story starts three years ago on the evening of 2nd July 2007 when my husband Arthur was 66 years old, here in southern France where we had just come to live two years previously.
He came in after working in the garden all day and in the evening complained of feeling extremely tired, more so than he had ever felt, so I packed him off to bed hoping that he would feel better in the morning. He had no other symptoms of any sort.
In the morning I saw that he was still sleeping soundly so decided not to waken him. Arthur is diabetic so after an hour I needed to wake him up to eat, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't waken him.
I was immediately panicky as I knew whatever I now did, I had to do in French. I called the doctor and the local fire brigade (the paramedics) which is what you do here. It was immediately confirmed that he was not in a diabetic coma.
Arthur was rushed into the local day hospital who quickly confirmed after a lumbar puncture that he had meningitis. I was allowed to stay with him all day and into the evening until they closed the hospital for the night, and all during this time he struggled to come into consciousness.
The next morning I went to see him, but he was just being transferred by helicopter to Clermont Ferrand Hospital 50 miles (80 kms) away as he had suddenly deteriorated.
My son had arrived from England in the night and we rushed down to the hospital where Arthur was already installed in Intensive Care. We were told the next day that he had streptococcus pneumoniae.
He stayed in a coma for three weeks as the doctors wanted to protect his brain as he was very agitated each time he struggled out of the coma. He was given three more lumbar punctures and had three MRI scans to check his brain.
The care he received was out of this world and I will never be able to thank all those who looked after him during his stay in hospital.
Once he come out of the coma he was ready to move downstairs to the Infectious Diseases Ward, but he had a massive set-back and we were asked to rush down early to come and be with him. When we arrived he was extremely agitated and delirious, convinced that the doctors were trying to kill him. His temperature had again risen over 40 degrees and it took all day to calm him down and settle him down for the night. It was after that that we noticed he was suddenly quite deaf.
The next day he was much, much better and was transferred downstairs where he spent a full week recovering. During this week however he suddenly lost seven kilos in weight and remained deaf in one ear.
He came home still very weak, unable to walk unaided and not sure if he was still in hospital or at home.
Over the next few weeks he started to regain his health and strength, and started to be convinced that he was at home. We were told that one of the several extremely strong antibiotics they had pumped him full of had caused his deafness, but that it had saved his life, so we thought that was a very small price to pay. He was also left with some vertigo – which affects him from time to time.
He was fitted with a bone-anchored hearing aid after a year (you have to wait at least nine months to ensure that the meningitis is dead).
He spent the winter recovering his strength and within 12 months he was feeling almost himself again. He is now completely recovered and enjoying life to the full. We have not found out where the meningitis came from but are only so grateful for the quick, efficient and intensive care and treatment that he was given, which saved his life and enabled him his full recovery.