I was born in London, England and moved to the U.S. at the age of six.
I was 16 when for the first time I had meningitis. I was a high
school student, very active in sports, including travel soccer,
swimming, and cheerleading.
I was fine the day that I became very ill. Around 7pm I walked into
my parents’ bedroom complaining of feeling "strange". Initially, my
parents thought it may be anxiety and suggested I go to bed early and
relax. Within minutes I can remember this general discomfort throughout
my body. My vision began to blur and I was becoming increasingly
frightened. My parents realised it was not anxiety. I told my mom that
my neck felt stiff and was difficult to move. Luckily she was
knowledgeable about the common warning signs of meningitis. My parents
recognised the symptoms and as I showed more signs of the illness, they
wasted no time in rushing me to the Paoli Hospital (Pennsylvania)
My memory at that stage was blurred. Walking from the car through
the sliding doors of the hospital I began to vomit. My parents explained
my symptoms and the nurses brought me back to a bed and began drawing
blood and hooking up IV's. This is when the headache began. To this day
there are no words I can use to describe the persistent and excruciating
pain in my head. I experienced a sustained high-pitched ringing in my
My parents anxiously waited in the corner of my hospital room. Given
the pressure from the swelling meninges, I was crying out to the nurses
for help. The pain in my head was unbearable. Someone came into the ward
to perform a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to collect a spinal fluid
sample. It was sent out to the lab and I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis.
Staff from DuPont Children's Hospital, in Delaware, were rushed over
in an ambulance to transport me to their ICU. They began to administer a
heavy dose of antibiotics. I couldn't keep anything down and was still
vomiting. I was given ice chips because I was dehydrated.
I don't remember a lot in between. My parents and sister were there
with me the whole time. At times they were not allowed into the ward.
When they came into the ward, they were made to wear gowns and a mask. I
was hospitalised for a week.
I am so lucky to have walked away from the infection with no serious
damage. It was treated early enough to prevent serious long term
complications. Although for a week I had trouble walking, I recovered
without physical therapy.
I was diagnosed three years later with viral meningitis but had a shorter hospital stay with less severe symptoms.
Not everyone will recover as quickly and without serious lifelong
problems. There is a vaccine available for bacterial meningitis and I
urge everyone to get it. It takes 5 minutes and can save your life.