Meningitis in your words

Andrea Jenkinson's story

  • Location: Wales
  • Categories: Group B meningococcal (MenB)
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Andrea Jenkinson

I didn't think at 36 that I could become ill with meningococcal septicaemia, but I did. 

Over August Bank Holiday in 2004, my daughter Abigail, four, and I were staying in Wrexham with my brother Stuart and his wife Kathryn. On the Saturday morning I got up, but told Stuart that I didn't feel very good and asked if he could watch over Abigail while I went back to bed. 

As that morning went on I was feeling really poorly; I had been sick, was very sleepy and had the Red Flag symptoms; limb, joint and muscle pain, cold hands and feet. At this stage however, I thought I just had 'proper flu', but knew I'd never felt so ill. 

"I was very upset and blurted out to the triage nurse 'Look, look I think I have meningitis!'"

By mid afternoon, I remembered my pin board back at home with the meningitis info that I sent for two years earlier following a GMTV campaign. My middle toe on my left foot was exceptionally sore and had turned black and then I realised I had some of the meningitis symptoms. 

Leaving Abigail with Stuart, Kathryn drove me to Maelor Hospital. On the short drive, I started to notice pinprick dark red blisters on my hands. When we got to A&E I was very upset and blurted out to the triage nurse "Look, look I think I have meningitis!" showing the telltale rash on my arms. 

From then on it was all a bit of a blur as I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I was given the initial antibiotics and progressively more important medics kept seeing me. I was moved to a side room in an observation ward and with reassurance Kathryn went back home for the night to check on Abigail and Stuart. 

I was given a lumbar puncture, which was horrible and it took several painful attempts. I was intravenously hooked up to antibiotics and fluid and kept waking up to hear the Olympic finals from the nurses' station outside my room; Kelly Holmes winning her second gold medal. At some point in the middle of the night a doctor came and told me I had meningococcal septicaemia Group B and I knew that was very serious. In the morning I asked if I was going to lose my toes or foot but didn't get an answer.

I was desperately worried not so much for myself, but for Abigail and was so relieved when at last Stuart, Kathryn and Abigail arrived showing no symptoms at all and they were given antibiotics as a precaution.

My mum came and stayed with Abigail for that first week at Stuart's. They visited every day and kept my spirits up. Mum took Abigail home at the weekend and unfortunately I was going to miss her first day at school. But at least I'm still here to take her every day. 

Not once in my recovery did I think "Why me?" I was just so grateful that it was me that had gone through it and not Abigail. I spent ten days in hospital, Abigail was OK at home, so I stayed at Stuart's and rested until they took me back the next weekend. 

When I went on the MRF website I realised that I could have been disabled in some way if not worse. I made a complete recovery and returned to work after three months. I am so thankful that I recognised my symptoms and got to hospital so quickly. 

The MRF helpline was very helpful in my recovery and now I am pleased to be able to do what I can to give back by raising awareness with my story.

Written by: Andrea Jenkinson
March 2009