Peter Lovell

Pneumococcal meningitis at 30

Pneumococcal meningitis

On the 30th September 2008, my husband Peter was complaining of a headache, feeling cold, and general flu-like symptoms. I was not really worried although I did ask him to see a doctor, as he is never normally ill.

I took our little one to school, and when I came back he was asleep, so I just let him sleep. I collected our daughter and returned home by 1pm. I had made some sandwiches and Pete had one bite and said he didnt feel like it. I went out to make a cup of tea and only managed to get the kettle on when Pete called for me saying he felt sick. He was sick and then passed out - and this is when alarm bells rang in my head. But not meningitis bells, as up until that day I never knew adults got meningitis. I rang the local GP who promptly told me to put down the phone and call an ambulance. I can remember thinking when I was dialling, 'I'm gonna be in trouble for wasting the ambulance men's time'. They arrived within five mins, looked over Pete, injected him with what I now know to be antibiotics, and we blue-lighted to hospital.

On arrival Pete was seen straight away, then moved to another area and I was then allowed to be with him. His colour had changed, he was not on this planet, he was clammy to touch, constantly holding his arms over his eyes and would not let anybody move them.  I remember three doctors talking in the corner very quietly and then this lady appeared, who I now know to be the Manager of Intensive Care. She was very calm and told me Pete needed to go to ICU. Being really stupid I said 'what's ICU?' - I really did not know, the only time I have been in a hospital was to give birth. She explained how poorly Pete was and that he needed to go to Intensive Care and that he had perhaps 30 minutes to live and to get the people there that mattered.

At this point I just fell apart. I could not take in what was happening, what people were telling me. We were shown into the relatives' room where we waited for over two hours. I could not take any more and went looking for Pete. What I found has been engraved in my brain forever - I cannot get those visions out of my head. ICU does not resemble anything I've seen on TV. Pete was put on life support and he was covered in wires and surrounded by machines.

The staff are fantastic, they answer any question you fire at them but not the important one: 'Is he gonna die?' I had to wait for nearly two weeks before someone said he was off the danger list.

Pete was transferred to a ward, he could not walk or talk properly, still had a bag for weeing, and the worst was he could not hear anything at all. I think for a while we all thought the hearing would come back, but a chat with the consultant put an end to that dream. Pete had lost three stone in weight and had no muscle left on his legs and very little on his arms, he really did look different. He was miserable, confused after the drugs, did not know his children, thought he was in Australia - all sorts of awful thoughts he really believed to be true. He just wanted to come home. We were warned he had a very low chance of survival if he came home, but he was desperate and if I didn't help him he would somehow do it on his own.

Over the next 12 weeks my husband was so brave; he learned to walk, talk, lip read, get dressed, bath himself, shave himself - so many things we all take for granted. Along with his deafness, Pete has only 25% of his balance organ left, which means if you take away the light or he closes his eyes he falls over. He is trying to learn to walk in the dark but it's so hard for him. He has suffered memory loss. We have managed to put some of the pieces in place for him but there are things we just can't put back, so those times are lost forever.

On 9th December 2008, Peter had his cochlear implant processor attached. The early results are very good; he can tell the difference between a car and a lorry, humans at the moment are all morse code, he can hear his voice again and can make out the dog barking, but they are not true sounds yet just noises. I do believe we are starting to climb back up the hill - there are a lot of things in the way and we have to find ways around them. But we are gonna win against pneumococcal meningitis and I urge anyone, if you suspect even just a little bit, do something. You're not wasting anyone's time if you call an ambulance or a doctor and don't wait for the rash.

Pete has also been back to the Intensive Care Unit for a visit - I chose not to go as I couldn't cope with all that - but he says what he remembers and what he saw on the walkabout are completely different. The colours were all different and the shape and size of everything is not as he remembered.

I kept a diary of sorts on Facebook, just to stop people phoning, and this is where the Foundation found me and contacted me. I have met with them on several occasions and had a chat, and during the dark times both Shirley and Tina were really there for me, they just listened to me moan and moan, thanks to you both for just listening. I would love to do the same back now.