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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.

Trevor John Newsome

Viral meningitis at 61

Viral meningitis

I am now 61. At the end of November 2011, my granddaughter aged 19 months had been staying with us and had a head cold and runny nose, which I attended to when I had to.

The day after she went home, I woke with a pounding headache. I didn’t think much about it, took some paracetamol and went to work, thinking that maybe I’d picked up a bug from her. Later in the day, my headache wasn’t getting any better. I use a computer a lot at work and wondered whether I might have eye strain. I didn’t have any painkillers with me but a colleague had co-codamol. I took two of them and carried on.

Having left work early, I still wanted to go out for a meal with my wife and son and granddaughter – it was my son’s birthday. Before going out I called my GP surgery and within a short space of time, my GP rang back. He wondered whether I might have migraine and prescribed Migraleve, which I collected on my way to the restaurant. I thought “surely they will do the trick” but no!

Early evening saw a call to NHS Direct, followed by a hurriedly arranged visit to a local out of hours centre. The doctor there didn’t like the look of me – by then I felt freezing cold and the headache was much worse. She sent me straight to A&E at Leeds General Infirmary. From there, after a period of monitoring, during which time my temperature was gradually climbing and my reaction to light worsening, I was transferred by ambulance to St James University Hospital. I had never felt so unwell. I was initially on an assessment ward and treated for suspected meningitis. At that point, it was unknown what type it might be. I had a CT scan followed by an excruciating lumbar puncture. After initial results indicated meningitis, I was transferred into a darkened side room, away from others.

On receiving a definite diagnosis of viral meningitis, I was transferred to an isolation ward, where I remained (in a darkened room) for several days. Gradually my temperature began to come down from a point which was a tenth of a degree below which the consultant said my organs would have begun shutting down. Thankfully, the immensely painful headaches began to subside too.

My consultant told me that I had suffered a particularly aggressive strain of the virus and I could expect to be unwell for quite some time. At a subsequent outpatient visit, he was surprised that I was back at work already, two months after the problem. He also told me that my granddaughter was probably the cause – bless her!

I feel thankful that my meningitis could have been a whole lot worse than it was and that I have relatively few side effects. I occasionally get a very painful, short-lasting headache out of the blue and my temperature is now generally lower than it was before the illness but that’s about it.

I now have the experience of meningitis to add what was recently found to have been herpes simplex encephalitis, (destroying part of my brain and leading to epilepsy from the ages of 17 to 44) at the age of 20 months!

I am very grateful for the information sent to me by the Foundation on my discharge from hospital and for the helpful advice given when I needed to check up about my lowered temperature.

February 2012

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