Myself and my wife Wendy were looking forward to our week off work and travelling to Dublin on the Tuesday in August 2009 to see her favourite band, James. This was to be our first visit to Dublin and my first time to see James in concert. On the Sunday evening, we returned from a friend’s house to find Sophie, our 17-year-old daughter lying on the sofa feeling not well. She was complaining of a headache and being generally not well. Wendy gave her some headache tablets and she lay and watched TV with us before retiring to bed.
The following morning, Wendy had to go into work to finalise a few things before her break and I got up to have breakfast with her. Sophie got up and still had the headache and still was unwell and was also having difficulty standing as she had pains in her legs. Before Wendy left for work I called the doctors to explain the symptoms as swine flu was around at this time. The nurse at the doctors told me from the description I had given that it wasn’t swine flu and that we had to give her paracetamol and Nurofen. I dashed off to the chemist and bought the medication together with a forehead gel pad that was supposed to relieve the pain too. Wendy went to work and I was left with Sophie. Her condition deteriorated and I called the doctors again, for the nurse to tell me she couldn’t offer me any more advice! I then insisted on speaking to our GP who asked if we could go straight to the surgery and I replied that she was too unwell. He then said he would attend as soon as the surgery finished.
I went into the kitchen to make Sophie a cool drink and when I returned she was stumbling around the lounge talking gibberish and was just staring (I later found out from her that she couldn’t see). I tried to calm her and get her back onto the sofa but no matter what I tried to do she could not understand. I grabbed the phone and dialled 999 and about five minutes later a paramedic car arrived with two medics, but they could not calm Sophie and by now she was screaming and in a confused state. They asked if she had been taking drugs or alcohol and they called for an ambulance. This duly arrived and we were taken to Newcastle General Hospital where the medics had difficulty restraining Sophie as she was thrashing around and screaming. En-route I had called Wendy and she left work to head to the hospital. Wendy arrived and it was at this point I fell to pieces. I was supposed to be the strong man, but seeing our only child in this state and being able to do nothing was too much for me. I called Wendy’s boss Robert – who is my friend – and he closed the business to come and give us support. The doctors at this point thought she may have had a bleed on her brain and she was sent for a scan.
One of the nurses asked Wendy if Sophie normally had a rash on her cheek and when Wendy said no, they immediately began to treat Sophie for viral and bacterial meningitis, explaining to us that they had to cover all bases and it wouldn’t do any harm until they got a diagnosis. Sophie was sedated and moved into ITU. When we went to see her she was hooked up to a ventilator and other monitors and had one-to-one nursing, and it was at this point that we realised how serious her condition was.
By that evening the hospital told us to go home and get some rest and to return in the morning when they would be taking her off sedation. Before we left at about 10pm, we were visited by a doctor who gave us an update that it was confirmed meningitis and told us the worst case scenario with respect to after effects. We also received a call from The Health Protection Agency (I think!) who asked us all sorts of questions. We were also given medication to take ourselves in case we were carriers of the bug.
When Sophie was woken two days later, she again began thrashing around and pulling out her drips and monitors, but her nurse said this was normal with her condition. She slowly improved and after three days in intensive care she was moved to an isolation ward. She was then diagnosed with Group B meningococcal meningitis after her specimen was checked at another facility. Her recovery after this went well and the following Tuesday was allowed home, where that night she insisted having a driving lesson and driving to Robert’s house!
In January 2010 she passed her driving test first time and in March 2010 she was officially discharged from the care of the hospital. She still has occasional headaches and suffers from tinnitus and gets tired but is fine apart from that.