My name is Wayne Browne and I got meningococcal septicaemia on Monday 27th November 2000 aged 22. This is my story.
It was just another Saturday, going Christmas shopping in Belfast. I started to develop a stiff neck but thought nothing of it. That night I went out with friends but all of a sudden I felt very cold and started to shiver uncontrollably. The shivering was like fits and my body ached all over. I thought I was taking the flu so went home to sleep it off.
I woke on Sunday morning and felt very weak but managed to get up and have breakfast. However, I got cold again I started to shiver. I couldn't get warm so I put on about three layers of clothes, a hat and went back to bed! At that point I still only thought I was taking the flu, however my sister did offer to take me to casualty but I refused.
Monday morning came. My mum tried to waken me for work. I remember her being in the room but I could not move. She tried to shake me but all I remember is slipping in and out of consciousness. My mum by this stage was frantic with worry and rang for the doctor. Dr Stewart came immediately and knew straight away what I had, and phoned for an ambulance. The ambulance personnel arrived and I remember them in my room as the brightness of their yellow coats hurt my eyes. Dr Stewart told my mum how seriously ill I was and that I was in the hands of God now.
I remember the journey in the ambulance but after that I have no memory. The next part of my story is told from my mum's memory of events.
Once at the hospital I had to undergo two lumbar puncture procedures and a brain scan. By this stage I was in a coma. I was kept in an isolation room. The doctor told my mum to gather all the family together as things were not looking good and the next 12 hours would be crucial to see whether or not I would pull through. If I did make it there was also a great chance I could be brain damaged. I had also developed the rash on my feet and they might have to be amputated.
Whilst in my coma I do remember having very weird dreams. One in particular sticks in my mind. I recall having a conversation with a gentleman and he asked me general questions like why I was in hospital etc. I remember the man packing a suitcase and the doorway he was walking towards was the brightest light I have ever seen. He wished me all the best and left through the doorway. After several hours I woke up and yelled out that my head hurt so much! I then fell in and out of consciousness for the next day or so, waking briefly to see who was with me.
As I began to regain consciousness I was moved out of isolation. The doctor told me how lucky I was to be alive and if he had put a bet on me to live or die it would have been die. He informed me I had meningococcal septicaemia, group B, and said it was a miracle it didn't kill me. Someone must have been watching over me.
I had never heard of meningitis before this. I spent 10 days in hospital and all I can say is a big thank you to all the medical staff who cared for me. I was lucky not to have lost my feet or have any brain damage.
I can remember the day I left hospital, arriving home and climbing the stairs. I had to crawl up and then lie down for a few hours to rest. I had no strength whatsoever. I also had no immune system and had to build myself back up gradually. Every member of my immediate family had to take a course of tablets
I was off work for about three months and returned thinking things were back to normal. However, I kept thinking to myself 'why me, what had I done to deserve this?' I also kept thinking I should be grateful to be alive and still in good health. Slowly, these thoughts started to get me down, big time. I became more and more depressed. I shut all my friends out and kept losing my temper with my family. They were finding it very hard to live with me. Life had become a real struggle.
My mum suggested that I talk to a Meningitis Research Foundation befriender and so I had a telephone call from a gentleman. We talked and shared our stories. He listened to my problems and was so understanding because he had been affected by this disease and gone through it also. When setting down the phone after that first call I felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. We talked regularly and he encouraged me to get in contact with my friends again. So I did and they are still my friends to this day. Tensions eased with my family and they started to enjoy my company again.
It has been eight years since my illness and the memory of it is never far from my mind. I like to keep in touch with the Foundation. My mum and I get Microscope which keeps us up to date, we get raffle tickets and sell them among friends and we also buy the charity Christmas cards.
I would like to get more involved with befriending as I would like to help people who are going through tough times and who are depressed like I was. I hope one day to do a charity cycle event as I would jump at the chance to be involved and help raise money. I hope to always be involved with the charity.