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meningitis & septicaemia can kill in hours!

People who are faced with meningitis and septicaemia have to act fast to help save a life.

Stephen Paul Veness

Meningococcal disease at 37 when writing

Meningococcal disease

October 1992: Three weeks into starting university at Sheffield Hallam and things were great; away from home for the first time, meeting new people, a new city, and of course too much beer and partying and all that comes with it!

I had been out at a disco on a student night, snogged a girl, and a little worse for wear crashed on the floor at a newly acquainted friend’s house (the carpet had seen better days!).

The following day, feeling a bit groggy I returned to my Halls of Residence and one of my flatmates asked me to give him a hand with rearranging his room. I obliged and set about moving wardrobes, desks, beds, etc around. However my mind said yes but my body said no, I was sapped of energy and after ten minutes of trying, admitted that I was a weak and feeble ‘Southerner’ (my flatmate was a true ‘Northerner’ from York!) and retired to my room. I had a slight headache but thought it was the after-effects of the night before. I popped an aspirin and had a lay down.

I dozed off for maybe 30 minutes but awoke with a stronger pain in my head. I decided to have another aspirin. I lay down again and as time passed my headache became more painful, by this time looking back I think I was dazed and going downhill fast. I tried to go back to sleep thinking that it must be a strong flu bought on from my exploits the night before and that in the morning I’d be as right as rain.

It could have been another 30 minutes before I acted again but it seemed like 30 hours trying to get some sleep. It must have been about 2-3am when I rummaged through my student starter pack and found a doctor’s telephone number. I put on a jacket and stumbled to the payphone down the road. Luckily someone picked up and after I blabbered gibberish, they said they would send a doctor to the Halls.

After returning to my room and laying back down on my bed my head was banging and I was very very groggy. I don’t know how long had passed but it seemed an eternity until there was a knock at my door. I mumbled something and in came the doctor (I think!). He looked at me, pulled out some needles and bottles and the next I know I’m being wheeled into the ambulance. From that moment onwards till three weeks later I don’t remember anything.

I woke up in an old hospital out on the Moors in Yorkshire, it reminded me of the hotel in One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. I was weak, had grown a beard by now and there was a constant stream of doctors visiting me.

Two further weeks passed and they allowed me to return home 'down south' as my Northern friend from York would say!

I returned to university after Christmas, still low on energy but determined to carry on. I passed my first year and continued on to complete my Honours Degree with a respectable 2:1.

I met a Spanish lady while doing my placement year and have since moved to Spain, working in a reputable company, learning Spanish from scratch and now speaking it fluently and happily married with two sons.

The events from nearly 20 years ago are forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday life but from time to time, something jogs my memory and I realise more and more how lucky I was and how much I owe to the doctor who identified this devastating disease so quickly. Thank you.

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