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Laura Jones

Viral meningitis at 37

Viral meningitis

It all started with a day at the zoo and a piggyback ride...

I am 37 years old and I got viral meningitis in August 2008. It is March 2009 and I am only now feeling quite fit and well. It took a lot longer than I ever imagined to recover from this viral illness...

A family trip to Dublin zoo was planned, 6 of us piled into the jeep and we all had a great day out.

My little boy was tired going back to the car from the zoo so I gave him a piggyback ride. In the car I got a headache and by the time we got back home at 2.45pm it became worse so I took the strongest tablets I had. They made me sleepy but I felt no better. It was difficult to mind my boy as I felt pretty awful and drowsy, well so when his dad arrived to pick him up at 6pm (we are separated) I was relieved. My neck was sore by now but I had decided that I had strained my neck giving the piggyback and that was why I had the headache and neck ache...

When Rory was gone to his Dad's house, I went to my parent's house next door on the hunt for more painkillers as I felt I needed to get on top of the pain, and after that I went to bed.

I woke at about 6am. I felt really dreadful and was immediately sick all over the bed. I knew I was very unwell, I could hardly move as I seemed to have frozen up (neck stiffness in hindsight), I had pain in my head and ached all down my back. I felt sick from head to toe, I had no idea what was wrong (at this point I should say that I am a nurse!!!) and that I needed to tell someone. I tried to make phone calls but couldn't get the numbers in the correct order so I kept misdialling. Eventually I got through to my dad who called the doctor out to me. It was a Saturday morning and she arrived pretty quickly. She called an ambulance and said I may have sinusitis but it may be meningitis (I think she was trying to not scare me!!). This may sound crazy but I felt too sick to go to hospital, all I wanted to do was curl up and be really still and block out the world - the thought of sitting in a casualty waiting room was utterly unthinkable. The doctor persuaded me and off I went in the ambulance.

Thankfully, in hospital I was looked after immediately, they were so good to me. They diagnosed meningitis after a scan and lumbar puncture. I spent eight days in hospital. My biggest problems were the photophobia and phonophobia. The only way to deal with light was to press a soft jumper I had with me hard over my face and eyes to block out the light and stay under the covers in a dark room. I couldn't bear sound at all except for 'low' sound.

Getting better took seemingly forever. In the early days (September, October), some days I was able to function, some days I was stuck to my bed or sofa feeling pretty rough. I had five migraines a month until January, and now I only get two a month and they are nowhere near so bad. My phonophobia took until the end of November to go away fully, in the meantime I laugh as I remember wanting to carpet the walls, floors, tables, cutlery, keys, glassware just to deaden out sound! My concentration came back like a Christmas present as I started reading again properly at Christmas.

I had given up work in June of 2008 to take a year out. If I had to do the job that I had, then realistically I shouldn't have gone back to work until December sometime. Knowing me, I would have gone back too soon and really really struggled ...

The Meningitis Research Foundation gave me great support anytime I called them for advice, they said it may take some time to recover and I think I didn't really accept that as I was in a rush to be better quickly. However they were right, it takes time, and in time I got back to a good feeling of health.