After 10 operations for sinus washouts and polyp removal, going for number 11 was just another nose op, or so I thought. It was April 23rd 2004 and I was waiting for my turn to go to theatre, pre-op injection and count to 100.
The next time I woke would be in Intensive Care days later, as during the operation the surgeon had released bacteria from the back of my throat into my bloodstream, apparently between 5-15% of population have it lying dormant.
My wife had come to collect me from my 20 minute operation to find that I was semi-conscious with doctors and nurses frantically trying to bring me round. I was being sick every 20 minutes, my hands and feet were freezing and I had a high temperature. Luckily for me one lady doctor gave me a massive dose of penicillin and told Donna that there was something clearly wrong with me.
When I started to respond to the antibiotics I regained consciousness and felt the full force of the pain moving slowly round my face, jaws, teeth and neck. Thank God for morphine. After three lumbar punctures, two CT scans and two MRI scans the consultant confirmed it was meningococcal meningitis. After the first week in hospital I was sitting up and started eating again, after losing a stone in weight.
I spent a total of four weeks in hospital but nobody explained what after effects this disease would leave me with, joint stiffness, blurred vision, memory loss and the 24 hour a day headaches, but most of all the change in personality. I was an easy going kind of bloke before but now have mood swings and a temper that have put strain on our marriage.
It is now the 13th of October 2010 and I have a sense of deja vu because on the 13th of September 2010 I was again diagnosed with meningitis, surely not again?
My son and daughter-in-law had organised a charity ball in aid of Help for Heroes on the Saturday night, we had a table of close friends. Due to my sinuses playing up I decided to be Des that night and drank good old water by the gallon. A good night ended about 2.30amwith me having a blinding headache, we both put it down to sinuses and loud music and went to bed.
The pain woke me about 5.30am, so decided to get up. All our friends had a good laugh at me having a hangover on water, but as the day went on the pain got steadily worse and I started to feel nauseous. By 4pm I was asleep on the sofa, restless and fidgety. I had a very uncomfortable night of high temperatures, shivering, feeling sick and the increasing pain.
Monday morning 7am I rang my boss to tell her that I was chucking a sicky, put it down to dodgy food at the ball. Donna fussed around getting me everything I could possibly need, then left for work at 7.30am. At 8.30am I rang the GP and got an appointment straight away, managed to get to the surgery and she put it down to my sinuses being infected and sent me home with a dose of antibiotics.
Lunchtime and Donna came home to see how I was, not good by now I was being sick. She reassured me the tablets had to get into my system and went back to work. 4.15pm and Donna opened the door to find me on all fours throwing up, holding my head in tears, I asked her to ring the doctors. She tried to talk me out of seeing the doctor again and went to walk the dog. When she came back I had Googled symptoms for sinusitis, the very last line read ‘may cause meningitis’. That was all I needed, we went to the surgery and by luck I saw the same doctor who remarked that I had deteriorated. By this time the light was very painful on my eyes. She got me laid in her room and after five minutes she said she thought it could be meningitis. She immediately called an ambulance, but the most important thing she did was give me a huge dose of penicillin which I think saved my life. She even booked me a bed in the medical assessment ward so avoiding A & E and a lot of doctors head scratching, wasting time.
Every pothole the ambulance hit felt like somebody banging my head with a hammer. Ten minutes later I was in a side ward, lights out with doctors asking the same questions over and over. Morphine, needles in my arms, I broke down in tears; surely nobody is lucky enough to survive meningitis twice? I had two CT scans and one lumbar puncture and countless blood samples to confirm that I had a rare form of meningitis called Pasteurella, apparently a bacteria found in most animals. The doctors asked if I had been bitten by cats or dogs over the weekend, ‘no’ was the answer. The only explanation was that I touched an animal and somehow the bug got into my infected sinuses.
Four weeks on and I'm struggling to cope with the very painful knee joints, the vision and hearing problem. I've accepted the headaches as the norm as painkillers don't touch them. But the thing I need help with is the mood swings and rages I'm having, I'm taking all my anger and frustration out on my gorgeous wife and she doesn't deserve it. It's 10.05pm and we've just had another row or have I just blown my lid for no apparent reason again? I don't think she can cope with me being like I was six years ago.
If you're a wife, husband, relative or friend of a survivor of meningitis please be patient, the recovery is very slow, when they look better on the outside it usually isn't the case on the inside. Life is too short to waste it, cherish every moment.
Thank you to all the doctors who have saved the lives of the lucky ones. X