Meningitis in your words

Alyson White's story

  • Location: UK
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: 60+
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Alyson White
My mum Alyson was a fit and well person she didn’t have many health worries, she loved life and loved to travel.

In late September 2019 my mother and father went on a trip of a lifetime to India. They travelled the northern part and stayed in the most luxury hotels. Life seemed perfect. It was a full on trip, lots of activities, so not much time for a rest. They got back with many stories to tell and were obviously tired! A few days later my mum complained of having a UTI.

She phoned the doctors and got some antibiotics. She doesn’t normally suffer so this knocked her slightly. This cleared up within a couple of days, and then she complained of an ear ache. The earache suddenly got worse and the Thursday she felt rough, through the night it gave her pain and discomfort so on the Friday morning she went to the doctors and they said it was perforated. They said to go home, rest, and take painkillers. I phoned her at lunchtime to see how she was and she said she was going to have a little sleep as she didn’t feel well. She was due to collect my daughter from school at 3.15 but said she still would.

I text her at 2pm as I had a feeling something wasn’t right but as I was at work I couldn’t keep on. The next thing at 3.30 I have a phone call from the school to say my daughter hadn’t been collected. I phone my mum - no answer. I phone my dad and he said, 'oh don’t worry I will go and collect Sofia from school'. He collects her and takes her back home. Goes to check on mum and sees she’s just asleep! He tends to my daughter and then goes in the bathroom and notices sick on the floor, rushes into the bedroom again and tries to wake mum. No response.

She’s breathing normally, feels hot but will not respond. An ambulance is called and I manage to get there in time. I queried sepsis due to knowing she had a UTI and possible ear infection, and because everyone drums into you about sepsis. It seems she could have been unconscious for 2 or 3 hours before anyone realised. They rush her to hospital where we met them. We were taken into the relatives room where what seemed like hours, but was probably only 20 mins passed, then a consultant came in and said we're thinking it’s a meningitis type thing. but she needs to go straight to ICU.

"She sat up and opened her eyes once to me and said some blurred words. I was so happy as I saw this being a positive sign."

"Meningitis?" I thought. "I thought only children could get meningitis?? How did this happen??"

Up to ICU and she’s given a lumber puncture which confirms she has pneumococcal meningitis. Which they believe got in through the ear infection she had. My only instinct is to keep positive and knowing she was in the ICU she would get better. Her temperature was high, the aim was to get that down, and after 4 or 5 days it did. But she still remained unconscious, she was moving, turning over etc. Then she sat up and opened her eyes once to me and said some blurred words. I was so happy as I saw this being a positive sign.
They said so many times it’s good she’s maintaining her own airway as when it comes to being out on a ventilator it comes with its risks of pneumonia etc. So we were positive. Doctors still worried she hadn’t regained consciousness But took each day as it came and adjusted the antibiotics accordingly. She then developed a herpes style viral rash on her nose and around her mouth, it looked awful. Over the days it spread down her mouth and they had to constantly suction. She went downhill and seemed this secondary virus/infection had put strain on her and she needed to be ventilated. This came as a blow but necessary.

Day 10 came and we had a meeting with the consultant in charge. They had done another CT scan and seen “catastrophic” damage to mums brain. The meningitis had caused the blood vessels in her neck to constrict and therefore not allowing the blood to flow correctly around her brain. There was nothing they could do for her. The meningitis had got her.

It would seem that perhaps her body was busy fighting the herpes virus when it hadn’t stopped fighting the meningitis and it took over. It was the worst possible outcome. I had never prepared myself for this. My mum my world, my best friend.

On day 12 she passed away peacefully. Nobody knows whether she caught the virus/infection in India, on the plane or at home here and was just extremely unlucky. I never knew adults could be affected as you don’t hear about it so much in older people but I will definitely be raising awareness and hope this story helps.

Forever in our hearts mum.

Naomi Warren
July 2020

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