ACUTE VIRAL MENINGITIS/ENCEPHALITIS - August 2011
At 6.30am on 2 August 2011, I woke up feeling very unwell. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but I decided to lie down in the lounge so I didn’t wake my husband.
Minutes later, I was running to the bathroom and projectile vomiting. My head was pounding, my stomach hurt, I was shaking uncontrollably, my eyes were super-sensitive to light (photophobia) and I couldn’t speak coherently (dysarthria). From this point on the rest of the day was a blur, as I fell in and out of consciousness, so my husband Keith writes from here . . .
“It was obvious that Heather was seriously ill so, I rang our GP immediately. The ‘on call’ doctor came out and tried to examine her, but Heather was delirious and not making any sense. The doctor called out the paramedics, who arrived within minutes, and immediately took her to hospital.
Heather was admitted into the Medical Assessment Unit. She needed X-Rays, a CT scan and blood samples, but this was difficult as Heather had become so dehydrated. I was shocked at how fast this illness had taken hold. She didn’t know me, she couldn’t remember her own name or her birthday, and worst of all, she was completely unintelligible - speaking like someone who’d had a stroke. It was very frightening to watch someone you love in such a serious state. Finally, a diagnosis of meningo-encephalitis was made.
Later that evening, having stabilised, Heather was put in an Isolation Room on a high dependency ward. They needed to find out whether she had bacterial or viral meningitis. The initial tests seemed to suggest it was viral, but the hospital had to be certain, so a lumbar puncture was arranged for two days later. The spinal fluid was couriered to special laboratory and six days later the results confirmed that it was an acute attack of viral meningitis/encephalitis. Heather spent twelve days in hospital.”
Taking up the story again, I found coming home was very hard to deal with, as I thought once I’d left hospital it was only a question of a week or so resting in bed and I’d be back to normal. Oh, how wrong I was!
The weakness and photophobic headaches continued and I was frightened to go to sleep at night in case I woke up with meningitis again. I felt panicky when Keith wasn’t at home and I found it hard to concentrate, often becoming irritable and frustrated. Bit by bit, I felt my confidence and energy slipping away. I found the only way to cope was on a day-by-day basis. It made planning things difficult, but I learnt to make last-minute decisions depending on how I felt on the day.
When I was discharged from hospital I didn’t receive any aftercare advice or information about my condition. Like most people, I thought meningitis only affected babies and small children, not adults. So, it was left to me to do some research on the internet where thankfully, I found Meningitis Research Foundation.
As we approach Christmas, I’m wondering just how much longer my recuperation will take - my GP says it could be many months. At 61 years old, I don’t expect my body to recover as quickly but the post-viral condition is confusing and frustrating, as it has changed my life in so many ways.
However, I am very lucky to have such a wonderful husband to care of me and to have the support of Meningitis Research Foundation.