Paul Schofield

Meningococcal disease at 35

Meningococcal disease

It was October 2002 and I had been at work as normal, carrying out that Friday just as any other.  As the afternoon went on I began to shiver uncontrollably but I thought I had just got a bad cold as there was a lot going around at the time.  I slowly felt more rough and decided to go home.

I attempted to drive home but found it difficult to concentrate and kept pulling over and snoozing.  When I finally got home I lay on the floor, I had an increasing headache and it was difficult to lift my head off the ground. I began drifting in and out of sleep.  Somehow I decided to get myself to bed but when I attempted to I found that I could not lift my body up.  The only way that I could move was to crawl on my hands and knees.  I managed to get to my bed and drifted off. I heard the telephone ring what seemed like an eternity later but it was actually only a few hours; it was my parents.  This was 6pm on the Friday.

The next thing I remember was waking up feeling hot.  I opened the window in my bedroom, not a normal habit.  I had no concept of what time it was but it was dark outside.  The next memory was the telephone ringing again (it was my parents again), however this, I realised at a late stage was 6pm on the Saturday and I had been asleep for almost 24 hours.  I remember talking on the phone and afterwards thinking I must get washed and dressed; the next memory was waking up in intensive care some days later. I found that my mother had travelled some 60 miles to my home and got in through that window in my bedroom and found me collapsed in the bath.

I am told they thought I had had a heart attack when they got me to hospital because they were finding it difficult to find a regular heart trace.  I was put on a general ward initially but, suddenly, I was swiftly taken to ICU as they suspected meningitis. I remember whilst in the ICU not being able to move and all I could see were red ants running everywhere (a side effect of the medication).  I learnt that it was touch and go at several times and they thought that I was not going to pull through, as I was not responding to the medication and my body was starting to shut down.

I was later transferred to a heart ward as they had diagnosed meningococcal pericarditis. Whilst there I began to learn to walk again, I found that the illness had also affected the hearing in my right ear and subsequently I have very little use of it.  

It is a little over six years since I fell ill and it is only recently that I have found that I am getting back to some kind of normal life.  It has been hard some days, particularly as my concentration was affected, and I get frustrated with tasks that I used to be able to do but now struggle with. I am having to learn how to adapt the 'new me' into what I can and cannot do and try not to get too angry with myself when I cannot.

Subsequently I wanted to find out more of what had happened to me and whilst searching the internet came across the Meningitis Research Foundation, who have been invaluable to me, if only for support at 3am on the helpline.