I first got meningitis when I was three – I don't remember much of course, but my Mother has told me that I became very quiet and sleepy and she just knew something was wrong. She took me to our local GP but he was away and his locum (who was his Dad) was on duty. He'd worked in the West of Ireland for years and, apparently, it had been prevalent there so he recognised the symptoms immediately and I was taken to hospital. I recovered very well and had no side effects – which is excellent as I was given very poor odds for survival.
The second time I got it I was approximately 12. I had a massive headache and knew that I had it (there must have been memories from when I was three of what the pain felt like). I had very bad headaches and severe vomiting. Again I was taken into hospital and seemed to be recovering – however, I had an allergy to the drugs they gave me which had other side effects. Again, I recovered with no side effects.
The third time was when I was 14, and my fourth time I was 16, just before my Leaving Certificate. Again, the symptoms were major headaches with vomiting – at this stage, we'd all learnt to jump if that happened and at least we knew by now to tell the doctors to immediately give me penicillin. Both times I was given very short odds but recovered very well.
The fifth time I was 27 and, by this stage, medical testing had come to a point where they could do scans to see why I was continually getting this illness. As it turned out, I had two holes in my skull arising from a benign bony tumour growing in my nasal cavity which had cracked my skull. It was thought that this had grown over many years and slowly but surely allowed a channel for the bug to move from where it can naturally live in the nasal cavity to the meningeal tissues. Again I recovered well from this bout and ended up having several operations to resolve both the tumour and the cracks to my skull so that I didn't get the illness again.
Since then, I haven't had any symptoms at all and, fingers crossed, will stay that way. I would say to people that, if there's ever a situation where you have the most dreadful headache with vomiting, get straight to the local A&E and get seen immediately. Take someone with you because, if you do have it, you can go downhill really really quickly – don't delay, take action and do it as soon as humanly possible.
I am living proof that you can suffer multiple times from the illness and still recover with no side effects – I put this down to prompt treatment and recognition of the symptoms.