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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.

Kevin John Donachie

Meningococcal disease at 23 at time of writing

Meningococcal disease

On the 3rd of August 2006 I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. The night before I ached all over and had a black and blue spot on my leg. My mum made an appointment for me to see my doctor. He told me to go home and rest and take the usual medicines for flu-like symptoms and if my condition got any worse to phone him back.

This was also the day my parents and brother were going to Spain on holiday. I remember my mum phoning me from Spain in the afternoon to find out how I was, but after that my memory for the next five days is totally blank and the following account was described to me at a later date.

My mum tried to phone me at 6pm that night and thought it was unusual that there was no answer. She knew something wasn’t right and phoned a family friend (Iain) who is a trained nurse to check if I was OK. When Iain entered the house he found me lying on the hall floor semi-conscious moaning loudly and covered in vomit. I was incoherent and unaware Iain was there and therefore unable to respond to him. He cleared my mouth of vomit as I was choking and after a quick examination he dialled 999. Iain had to call his partner for assistance as he was finding it difficult to care for me and watch for the ambulance. Forty-five minutes later the ambulance arrived.

The paramedics arrived and Iain passed on his suspicion of meningitis. They didn’t seem too concerned and thought I’d been drinking or taking drugs. I was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where they quickly diagnosed meningitis. I was seriously ill; my brain was swelling and I had lapsed into a coma. Doctors decided to transfer me to a specialist hospital where they could operate on me to relieve the pressure and swelling on my brain.

Doctors told Iain to tell my family to get home as soon as they could as it was touch and go whether or not I would survive. They were distraught and spent several hours trying to get back home. Finally through the kindness of others and the airline they managed to get on a flight and arrived at the hospital at 5am.

By this time I’d been to theatre where doctors had successfully removed the fluid and pressure from my brain, and put a drain in to remove any build up of fluid in my brain. The next 48 hours were critical and a priest was asked to give me a blessing. I was on a life support machine in an intensive care unit which I remained on for two days and then began to regain consciousness. I spent a further three days in intensive care and then was transferred to a high dependency unit.

Doctors were now confident that in time I’d make a full recovery and attributed this to my high fitness level and a strong will to survive.

A Health Officer met my parents to try and find out how I could have contracted meningitis. By process of elimination they believe I caught the disease from sharing a straw with a girl whilst on holiday in Spain a week earlier. Luckily we’d swapped numbers and Iain was able to contact her, tell her what had happened to me and told her to see her GP immediately. Later that day she was rushed to the same hospital with meningitis and luckily it was caught in time. She was given antibiotics and made a full recovery.

Two years later I ran my first 10k in 38 minutes coming 15th out of 400 competitors. I also coach an under 19s football team and I am regular at my local boxing club.

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