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meningitis & septicaemia can kill in hours!

People who are faced with meningitis and septicaemia have to act fast to help save a life.

Emily Gudgeon

Meningococcal disease at 20

Meningococcal disease

I was 4 weeks into my first year at university when I got meningococcal septicaemia – Halloween 2010 when I was 18.
We had a wild night out on the Thursday and I had powered through my lectures the next day so by Friday night my new friends and I decided to watch TV and go to bed early.

I woke up 9am Saturday morning feeling awful. Not just fresher’s flu awful, this was worse than that. I ached all over and was sick every time I stood up. No big deal I thought. All I had to do was sleep it off. By 11 am I just felt even worse so I gave my mum a call, I can’t remember exactly what was said but afterwards my Mum told me I had said to her ‘well, put it this way Mum, I have never felt so sick in my life’. She recommended I went to the doctors, but I thought that was just more hassle than it was worth.

At 1pm I told myself that it was all getting rather silly and I did need to go and see the doctor. Meningitis did cross my mind because I had been on a fund raising rag raid event a couple of weeks earlier in Edinburgh for the Meningitis Research Foundation - so I was aware of the symptoms.

I rang the hospital, explained by symptoms and they made me an appointment for about an hour later. My college chaplain agreed to meet me in the college entrance to give me a lift to the hospital. It took me about 20 minutes to make my way there, crawling along the corridor in agony, when it is usually a 30 second walk.

When I got there he dropped me off and took me into the waiting room. I lay on the floor of the waiting room quietly, but in extreme pain. The doctor thought it was just bad flu until she took a urine sample, where I got wheeled off to A and E.

In A and E my friends joined me in the waiting room and by the time I was seen to I was feeling fine again. It was bizarre. On the phone to my mum I told me not to bother coming but she did and when she arrived I was planning an escape route. I was bored of being there and ready to leave. I felt like I was wasting their time when there were people there who really were ill. Despite telling the doctors this, they sent me to a ward where I was put on IV. At 10pm they said it wasn’t anything serious, just a urine infection and I was going to stay the night because it was late, then I could leave it the morning.

My friends and mum left and I was relieved. However it went from feeling awful to better again then through the night it got to the absolute worst. I was in pain like I cannot explain. My head felt like it was constantly exploding. I kept buzzing my button to call the doctors and ask for painkillers. They gave me some and I would watch the clock telling myself just give them half an hour, the pain will be better. But nothing happened. I buzzed again and again and have many different types but still, to me, it was like they were just giving me sugary sweets. In the end I was put on morphine – which made my headache bearable. I can’t remember what happened or where I was/what time it was the next day. I just remember lots of nurses looking at my rash and telling me I was being treated for meningitis. I was too ill to really respond to this. I wasn’t scared or upset, just sick. I had scans and was prodded my all sorts of crazy things and I was here and there between rooms and people. I was there for 3 weeks.

The 2nd week I developed a severe arthritis. So although the headaches were getting better, my movement degenerated. I couldn’t shower or feed myself. I couldn’t get off my bed or walk without help. This was when I got scared, they didn’t know whether this would be permanent or not. But it wasn’t, and in January 2012, 14 months after being admitted with the disease, after lots of steroids, blood tests and check-ups, I got discharged from the hospital.

I’m completely fine – and I managed to catch up with all my university work! I couldn’t have done it all without my parents and friends so I thank them very much. And the doctors and nurses were great – always calm and super friendly. I feel, especially in hindsight, like I am literally the luckiest person ever.

EMILY GUDGEON
September 2012

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