Helena Adkins

Pneumococcal meningitis at 22

Pneumococcal meningitis

I have never really talked about what happened during the times I became ill but, after reading some of the stories on this website, I felt truly inspired and humbled by what some people have gone through due to this awful illness. It also made me realise once again how lucky I was and am to of made a full recovery, twice, from pneumococcal meningitis.

The first time I became unwell I was seven years old and, obviously, my memory on what happened is limited. There were only a few things that are completely clear; my amazing mum and the incredible doctors at the St Mary's intensive care unit saved my life - if it wasn't for my Mum's quick reaction and her ability to trust her own instincts I would have possibly not survived and would most definitely not of been able to make a full recovery. The other thing is the importance of Meningitis Research Foundation and what they are doing to help with this illness.

The second time I got the illness I was twelve and, probably due to my age and not wanting to run to my parents for help, I kept the fact I was feeling unwell to myself. I went to bed with a headache and woke up in the early hours of the morning on my sisters 14th Birthday in severe pain. Other survivors of pneumococcal meningitis that I have spoken to over the years have all agreed that you never forget that headache and this is something I fully agree with. It was horrible. As I already mentioned I was too stubborn to go into my parents’ room and tell them, not wanting to ruin my sister’s birthday, so I stayed in my room in horrific pain and worsening my condition. If there is anything I hope to get across is that with this illness it seems timing is everything and in hindsight I shouldn't have waited to go get help! When my parents did come into my room they obviously reacted immediately by taking me to the doctors who believed, with my symptoms of vomiting, high temperature, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light and severe headache, I had a bug or virus of some sort and sent me home. It was when I returned home that once again my Mum became my saving grace - she put me to bed and called an ambulance. While the ambulance was on its way the GP from earlier on showed up to check on me as she had a feeling there was something more going on.

It was at this point that my temperature had risen so much I had a fit and from that point on I do not remember anything. From what I was told I was taken to Southampton Intensive care unit where I remained sedated for a few days. I was then taken to Basingstoke Hospital where I underwent a variation of tests to try and understand why and how I got the illness for a second time. I had ultrasounds, MRI Scans and a Lumbar puncture but there was nothing conclusive and even now the only explanation for what happened was that I was very unlucky - or lucky depending on what way you look at it.

My recovery the second time around was a lot more traumatic and tiring - I was not only physically exhausted but mentally too and needed extra help to allow me to come to terms with what had happened again. After six weeks I was able to go back to school and have since gone on to achieve my GCSE's, A Levels and a degree in English. I was extremely lucky! The help that Meningitis Research Foundation do for this terrible illness is essential and I for one would not be here today if it was not for what they are doing. I was lucky enough to have my life saved twice and I hope they continue to make a difference!

Thank you!

MARCH 2014