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Victoria Helena Pease

Viral meningitis at 20 at time of writing

Viral meningitis

I was 18 when I contracted viral meningitis and encephalitis. I had been clubbing the night before I was taken to hospital so put the headaches I was having the following day down to a hangover! I had been feeling strange at the club but had put it down to too much alcohol and had left early. But the headaches I was having got really bad about 9pm and was beginning to make me feel sick. I think the only way to describe them is the desire to open my head and pour a glass of water over my brain! It seems strange, but the headaches made my head feel dry.

 I thought I was having a migraine but as I hadn’t had one before I couldn’t be sure. When my speech started to become slurred and I couldn’t feel my left limbs, I began to get really distressed and my friends could see there was something wrong with me.

My hall assistant called an ambulance and I was taken to hospital. There, the nurses and doctors seemed convinced I had taken drugs but my friend who came with me was adamant that I hadn’t.

The light was bothering me and I kept getting out of bed to switch it off. I was taken for scans and tests but couldn’t follow simple instructions and could barely walk. I hardly slept and was constantly being sick.

The following day the doctors came to my bed and told me they thought it may have been a strong migraine. They briefly spoke about having a lumbar puncture but I was sent home before it could be done. My worried parents came and got me and I went back home with them to recover.

Three days later and I was being sick again and had another awful headache. I was taken to the local health centre and was given a sickness injection and told to wait for an ambulance. When I finally got to hospital I felt so woozy and out of it that I barely felt the lumbar puncture. When I was told it was meningitis, I just felt relief that I knew what had been wrong with me that I didn’t think what the implications of having the illness were. I stayed in overnight at hospital having been woken up every two hours for observation just in case.

About a week and a half later I was feeling better and was getting my appetite back when I went to drive. But as soon as I got in the car I couldn’t remember how to do it.

The following morning I was being sick again and this time I was rushed quickly back to hospital. This time I certainly felt the lumbar puncture! At first I was told to stay in hospital for the weekend which soon stretched into two long weeks. During that time I had MRI scans, EEG scans, memory tests and lots of drugs! Eventually I was allowed home after contracting a rash which was linked to the drugs I was given and the doctors felt I was ready to go home. When I got home I was desperate to celebrate!

I have never been to the doctor about any after affects but I do feel like there are some changes in myself. Although I was never very active before my illness, I do feel like I get out of breath quite quickly. Sometimes mid sentence I can forget what I am going to say and need to take a minute to remember. I was never told about any organisations that would help me after my time in hospital and I wasn’t warned about any after effects. I do think it’s true that viral meningitis is sometimes over looked but I can safely say it’s still very painful.

My relationship with the Foundation started when I interviewed Robbie Coleman from MRF for an article I was writing for my journalism course about students and meningitis. After giving me a lot of useful advice for both my article and myself, I wanted to give something back and joined the Foundation. In the future I would like to do some fundraising and talk to other students, helping them realise the signs of meningitis. I would say my experience with meningitis has taught me to stick to my guns and make sure you get the right treatment.