At the age of 25 I was working as a freelance presenter for programmes such as BBC1’s “Holiday” and “Film ‘94”.
It was on location just prior to recording an interview with Kenneth Brannagh on the set of his adaptation of Hamlet that I began to feel unwell. Keen not pull out of a long planned encounter with such a prominent star I ignored my aching head; as the day wore on I sought out the help of the onset paramedic, there to monitor sword-fighting scenes. I asked him for some paracetamol to ease the throbbing. He obliged. It didn’t help. At the end of my day’s filming the paramedic asked me how I was feeling. I said “fine-ish” He asked me to promise that if my headache continued I’d get it checked out because in his words “I’ve been watching you and you’ve been blinking a lot…it seems like you’re becoming sentive to light…I’m worried you might have meningitis”
With all the blitheness of my relative youth I thought he must surely have been talking something close to complete nonsense. At 2 am the following morning - when I was so weak I could hardly walk and I felt like my head was stuck in a vice - his concerns came back to haunt me. By now I was on location in Aberdeen for my next day’s work. I managed to get myself from my hotel room into a mini cab and along to an emergency 24 hr. surgery. The examining medic gave me two Solpadine tablets and told me to get some rest in a darkened room and my illness would “blow over within a day or two.” I asked him directly if I might have meningitis … his exact words have stayed with me to this day “Well dear, I’ve been a doctor for 18 years and I think I know meningitis when I see it…so no, you don’t have meningitis.”
Back at my hotel room and by now vomiting and entirely unable to look at any light I lay in bed, drifting in and out of consciousness. At 6 am I telephoned my mother to tell her not to expect to see me on live television that morning at 9 am. She said I sounded so unlike myself that she was very worried and was coming to the hotel. She drove a hundred and twenty miles from her home and by the time she got to me she took one look at me and was certain something was dreadfully wrong. She called my GP in Glasgow who over the phone instructed my mother to perform a series of small diagnostic tests - - one of which was to see if I could touch my chest with my chin. I could not. An ambulance was called and within the hour I’d had a lumber puncture and was diagnosed with meningitis B.
To this day I feel grateful for the actions of not just my mother and my GP but the brilliant team at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary who nursed me back to health. I was incredibly fortunate and remain forever grateful.