Meningitis in your words

Ann Bills's story

  • Location: UK
  • Categories: Viral
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Hearing problems, Memory loss, Other, Headaches
AnnBills - Meningitis in your words
My name is Ann, I'm 55, I work for the NHS (National Health Service) and I'm recovering from viral meningitis.

During July of this year, I started feeling unwell, I assumed I was coming down with a cold or a viral infection. Over a matter of hours, I began to feel very poorly. I was out for a family meal which I had to cut short, we returned home and I went to bed and slept for several hours. I woke with a fever of 40.7 and knew that it wasn't just a common cold. 

The next day, I lost my appetite and a headache started to develop. By the evening of the following day the headache was extreme and I didn't sleep at all that night. In the morning I rang 111 and an appointment was made for me at the Urgent Treatment Centre of my local hospital. As I take medication for hypertension, I was alarmed to be told my blood pressure was very low during the Urgent Treatment Centre triage. Due to this and the headache, the first thing that crossed my mind was a bleed on the brain.

I was sent to the Same Day Emergency Care unit and, after thorough examinations, the doctor explained that they would be doing tests to rule out a bleed on the brain and also test for meningitis. I hadn't considered the possibility of meningitis, however the headache was extreme, I was sensitive to bright lights and it was very painful when I tried to put my chin on my chest.

The first test was a lumbar puncture which I must admit was not at all comfortable, even after the local anaesthetic. It took the doctor four attempts before she was able to draw off the spinal fluid. A lumbar puncture can result in nausea and headaches and I was asked to lie flat on my back for a couple of hours. The next test was a CT (computed tomography) scan of my head and neck. Thankfully, both the CT and lumbar puncture ruled out a bleed on my brain. 

I was given saline and paracetamol intravenously and was admitted. I stayed in a side room to ensure I was isolated.

Unfortunately, the microbiologists couldn't grow any bacteria to identify what had caused the meningitis so it was necessary for me to broad spectrum antibiotics and anti-virals. The neurology consultant advised that he was certain it was viral rather than bacterial meningitis but because the lumbar puncture was inconclusive I was given four antibiotics and two anti-virals intravenously. I was also given paracetamol and codeine with oral morphine on standby for whenever I needed it. Thankfully I managed without the morphine.

I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of my head and neck and then it was decided an MRI of my spine would also be needed to rule out an abcess on my spine. Thankfully the results from both were fine.

I spent ten days in hospital having daily blood tests in addition to the usual observations. My inflammatory markers didn't reduce as quickly as expected and I was only discharged when the markers had reduced. The nurses found it difficult to put in my cannulas (they needed to be moved to a different location every three days), my veins would collapse and it would take two or three attempts. I'm usually fine with cannulas but found it extremely painful during my time in hospital and the nurses explained that this was due to heightened sensitivity because of the meningitis.

My recovery has been slow and I experienced extreme fatigue, needing to sleep regularly during the day after I was discharged. I was very weak, dizzy and continued to have milder headaches. My joints ached, and I experienced brain fog and memory loss. These symptoms lasted for approximately eight weeks.

It has now been twelve weeks since I became ill, I have some problems with my balance, dizzy spells, aching joints, mild headaches after too much time in front of my PC screens and the tinnitus which I experienced prior to contracting meningitis has become worse. I'm also experiencing memory loss and brain fog which is concerning me.

I know that I am very lucky to have had viral rather than bacterial meningitis which is usually so much worse. However, viral meningitis can be incredibly debilitating with a slow recovery period.

I hope by sharing my experience I help to raise awareness. 

Ann Bills
October 2023

Although having viral meningitis was a scary experience for me and very worrying for my family and friends, the care I received was wonderful. Recovery has been slow but I am getting there and hope to make a full recovery in time. We need to do all we can to raise awareness and support research.

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