I had to lie flat on my back for 24 hours after the procedure. I was put in quarantine because the doctors weren’t sure whether I was contagious. It was very scary to see my family come in wearing masks and keeping their distance when all I wanted was to be close to them. When the results of my blood tests came back, it turned out that it was “only” viral meningitis.
I knew it was serious, partly because of how I felt inside, but also because my parents lost their sense of humour. My sister drew a picture of me (not something she would normally do) and it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m glad we haven’t kept it.
Since then (that was 2005), I have been partially deaf on one side and I am extremely sensitive to bright lights (this is called “photophobia”). I have been back to hospital several times and still frequently suffer from migraines.
But I try not to let it get me down. I know it could have been a lot worse. Other victims of meningitis fare a lot worse than I did, some being left completely deaf, blind or paralysed. Not everyone even survives. At the peak of a bad episode, when I can hardly open my eyes from the photophobia and I spend days in bed with migraines, I still remember that I am alive and largely unhurt.
Being abroad for the worst of it, I didn’t receive help from the Meningitis Research Foundation in particular. Since coming to study in the UK four years ago, however, I’ve become involved in fundraising for them, because I know how important their work is. I started going on collections with the Raise And Give group at my university.
I find collecting addictive, particularly when it’s for a cause close to my heart. When I graduated, I didn’t want to stop collecting. I joined the Ragabonds, a group of friends from across the country who go collecting whenever they can. Lots of them started whilst they were at university and, like me, didn’t see graduation as a reason to stop.