I was away on holiday diving in Egypt when I got bit on the leg on my last day and aside from a small irritant, I never thought anything of it. I flew home on the Friday and all seemed normal. On the Saturday I was suffering headaches and stiffness but carried on, even going to my best friend's birthday dinner that evening.
I woke up on the Sunday and I was in a world of pain, my head hurt like it was going to explode, I hated sunlight, in fact any light, I felt sick, my joints hurt like I'd run a marathon and I was struggling to stay conscious. I'm not sure what happened but I just about remember an ambulance trip, being in casualty, but to be honest I lost 5 days of my life that I know I won't get back. Apparently the pain was that bad that I begged to be sedated so maybe it's a blessing that I cannot remember anything.
In hospital they took all the tests but due to a previous spine operation a lumber puncture was out of the question so, given with the severity of my pain etc they assumed the worse and treated me accordingly for bacterial meningitis via drips etc. I spent two weeks in hospital leaving eventually still suffering with light phobia, minor nausea and confusion. All I really remember from the worst parts of the illness was this vision that I was sat in a hammock on a hot beach. Not sure where that came from as I've never used a hammock!
When I was discharged I was told that my symptoms would dissolve over the next six months and I was left to it. Over the next six months I forgot how to drive a couple of times and I couldn't remember how to use my camera. The camera issue was the most disturbing as I've been a professional photographer on and off for over 20 years and it was a bit of a shock.
I went to my GP who kept telling me to be patient until eventually I was referred to a consultant after 8 months of asking for help. By the time I saw a consultant I was able to identify that I had suffered heavy hearing loss, poor short-term memory, I struggled to read and write (more writing than reading), I had no concept of time passing by and I could read out aloud but not remember what I'd just read.
I now have hearing aids and I've spent some quality time with the community brain injury team working on identifying the issues which are now permanent. I had to stop work (in Investment Banking) 8 months ago and I am trying to get back to work but given my poor memory, loss of hearing and reading/ learning issues I think I am a long way off being a productive employee again.
I see every day as a positive despite the issues as I am ultimately alive. That's it, that's what matters, I survived and I never forget that. My life is good, I'm getting married in Nov 2009 and the Peterborough Community Brain Injury Team are superb at helping me understand.
If you have suffered and believe you are sitting there with after effects I would suggest reaching out for help. The majority of people recover with no long term effects but it's a sliding scale. At the one end you recover completely, at the other, you die. So, it's not unusual for people to sit somewhere in the middle with minor after effects. I sat alone for months as the hospital didn't offer any support until I was desperate. Now, I understand my new life, I accept my challenges and I'm rebuilding for the future. Like I said, I'm alive, that's enough.
I couldn't be here today without the support of my soon to be wife, Jasmin, my family and the brain injury team. To them I say Thanks.