Meningitis in your words

Ann Reed's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Wife
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Amputations
Ann Reed

Strength to survive.

My husband was 51 when our world fell apart within a few hours.

It was Christmas morning 2007 when he woke with severe shaking but no temperature. We both believed he had a chill but I was not happy so I called the doctor. I was told he had a virus and they did not give antibiotics for that, and to ring back in 24 hours if no better.

A couple of precious hours passed and he started groaning and the shakes were getting worse, but still no temperature, in fact it was low.

Things were not right, he may as well have been standing in a freezer. I took him to hospital and there I was asked how long he had had the rash. "What rash?" I said. It was the size of a 50p on his back.

Suddenly he started fighting everyone - he became delirious. I was told he had meningitis.

This was not happening - he was so well on Christmas Eve. I watched as he was connected to tubes in his neck, arm, hand and groin. They rushed him to the high dependency unit, where for a short while he became lucid again.

"I was taken aside and told he only had a one per cent chance of pulling through."

Then, without warning, he was violently sick and had a fit. His toes, fingers and ears started turning blue.

I felt like the ground was opening up and swallowing me, I felt so sick. I was taken aside and told he only had a one per cent chance of pulling through. They put him on life support - his organs were failing. My husband was dying in front of my eyes and I so needed to hold him.

He was rushed to intensive care at another hospital but I was told he could die en route. I felt so alone, following the ambulance in a trance, I suppose hoping he was alive.

When he got there septic shock had set in, his kidneys had failed. The next time I saw him was frightening: he was attached to so many machines and had so many doctors around him. I was told they had a fight on their hands; he was critical and the next few hours would tell.

From that time on I never stopped talking to him. Doctors and nurses taking blood, x-rays, one antibiotic after another, but I just talked. I could not lose him and I hoped he could hear me. I kept telling him to fight.

He survived the next three days, and then another infection set in. This was not happening. I was taken into a small room that was filled with doctors and nurses. I felt so small and so afraid. Once again they told me that he was still critical, but they wanted to give him a drug called Protein C for the immune system. Three doses would cost £10,000: what did I care about the cost; "please anything" I said.

Later the nurse said: "Here they are, these three little packets." Was this the miracle I was praying for? I watched as the first one went up. The world was turning but I stood still. I could not wake up from this nightmare.

15th January - finally the words I had so longed to hear again. "How I love you" came out of his mouth. It never sounded so good as it did at that moment.

Meningitis had however done its worst: he had lost two stone in weight, had no memory from Christmas Eve onwards and some memory loss going back further. He was left with bad heads, would cry for no reason and all I could do was hold him in my arms and say it was alright. He had been to hell and back and it will get better in time.

"Listen to your heart if you believe something is wrong - this disease is a killer which moves so fast."

His toes and finger however could not be saved: on March 18th 2008 they took nine toes off and half a finger, and he learned to walk again. We have just passed 11th December 2008 and he had to have the last toe off, but he looks to the future and says we can now move forward.

I admire my husband so much for his strength and positive attitude, which I am certain helped him. Listen to your heart if you believe something is wrong - this disease is a killer which moves so fast.

I was left for months wondering if I should have got him to hospital sooner, would things have been different, but after talking to another husband and wife who went through the same thing I know I moved as fast as I could and I know that my feelings were the same as theirs.

Talk to someone, anyone, don't be alone. Write it down, it helps, believe me. 

Written by: Ann Reed
April 2009