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Bacterial Meningitis at 29

Bacterial Meningitis

I was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in January 2003, as a junior in college. I awoke that morning with a different headache, nagging, but not horrible. As the morning progressed, it became more and more intense. It became much harder to see and I was extremely sensitive to light, and began to feel increasingly sluggish and lethargic.

About three hours from the time I woke up, my headache had progressed into a terrible pain I'd never experienced before, and it was painful to even walk. I laid down on a bench on campus and called my father, who came over to campus, took one look at me, and decided I needed to be rushed to the hospital. After arriving and discussing my symptoms and taking my temperature (104.3), the staff determined that I immediately needed to be tested for meningitis. I took several blood tests, a lumbar puncture, and a CAT and MRI to diagnose swelling around my brain. I had trouble touching my neck to my chest as well, and also had swelling of the face and neck. The CSF cultures came back with a positive test for meningitis.

I was immediately started on a cocktail of antibiotics, fluids, and pain medication to begin fighting the infection. I remained in the hospital for 11 days, and remained on IV antibiotics for three weeks after my release. I am so blessed and lucky to not have serious, debilitating after effects. But as a result of the meningitis, I suffered a slight paralysis of the jawbone and tongue, which has gotten progessively better over time. I also suffered complications with my gallbladder and had to have it removed as well. To this day, I also suffer from episodic cluster headaches, which too, over time, have gotten better.

I am so thankful that we were able to catch the infection as early as we did. I cannot stress the importance of proper vaccination and boosters – the shot was not mandatory when I entered college, and I was not protected. I realise that until it happened to me, I thought that meningitis was something that "other people got" and I never thought it would happen to me. I went through a variety of emotions – shock, anger that it had happened and was changing my life, hopelessness because I never thought I'd get better, and gratefulness once I realised I was turning a corner.

APRIL 2012