14 years. That’s how long it’s been since I woke up in a hospital with random pipes coming out of…well, random bits of my body. Now, what would you do at that point? I did the only logical thing – I started to pull them out. It’s amazing how 14 years disappears when you’re remembering the sensation of dragging a pipe out through your nose, which goes right down the back of your throat…
There I was, lying on a bed that vibrated every 10 minutes (apparently this prevents bed sores), feeling like I had the mother of all hangovers, and looking at the pipe I’d just pulled out. I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point, so I passed out. Problem solved.
Luckily, the next time I decided to pop back to the real world, there was a nurse there. This made me feel a bit better, so I passed out again.
Anyway, that continued for a while until I managed to stay awake for a bit, and suddenly started to see people I knew – my Mum, Dad, Granny, some of my close friends and some more nurses. “Right…” I thought “… this can’t be too good.”
Slowly, people started trying to explain what had happened, which took quite a while for me to get my head around, mainly because every now and then I kept popping off for a wee hallucination to myself (such as the giant Scalextric race track coming out of the wall and spiraling around the bed of the guy opposite – I was well miffed when they wouldn’t let me have a shot!).
Eventually though, I started to grasp the reason for my rather drugged-up state – I’d been a bit ill. OK, a lot ill. It goes something like this:
Patient Person (PP): You have been in a coma
PP: Yeah, you caught meningitis and as a result you fell into a coma
PP: You’ve been out for 5 days, you’re very weak, your body’s been fighting it off with the help of a lot of medication. You haven’t eaten anything, and been fed liquids via a tube. That’s why you feel pretty out of it
It turns out I had contracted meningococcal meningitis, with a bout of septicaemia thrown in for good measure.
The last thing I remember is having a day where I felt really rough, was sick a lot, had a bad headache and didn’t want to move. The next morning I was meant to travel to the Isle of Wight to start a job teaching climbing for the summer before starting university. Instead, my Mum came into my room to find me with a really nasty rash all over my body, and barely conscious. Being on the ball, she knew what it was right away, so was straight on the phone demanding a doctor urgently – it’s good job she did too, as without the shot of penicillin I got at that point, I would have died. Thanks Mum.
Once I got to hospital I was pumped full of drugs, and slipped into a coma. People always say to me “Whoa, that must have been rough for you!” but to be honest, it was everyone else I felt sorry for. I was unconscious, while my friends and family had to endure five days of worry and stress, and also take lots of medication themselves, just in case they also had meningitis (a side effect of which was bright yellow urine for a few days!).
Apparently at my worst point I was 90% reliant on life support machines and there were a few hours where it was touch or go as to whether I would survive or not.
Luckily for me, I did! I don’t really remember much about this time, except that it was all pretty unpleasant. I’d gone from weighing 13 stone to 7 stone within five days, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t even stand up and I couldn’t remember much about my past either.
It’s safe to say though that I was feeling pretty lucky to have survived. My friends and family were always there for me, and put up with a lot of random mumbling from me while the drugs worked their way out of my system. They were the ones who made me get up, and made me go through the physiotherapy to learn to walk again. They helped me remember my life too.
So, here I am now, typing up a story I haven’t thought about in this much detail for a long time. Whenever I talk about it, I tend to skim over the details, mainly because it still scares me how quickly the illness progressed. At the time, the doctor said that I was the only person he had ever seen with such a severe case that had managed to survive without at least losing a limb. I’ve got a few scars and I can’t really feel pain properly in the right hand side of my body. But it could have so easily been worse…much worse…
I never did get a shot of that Scalextric though…