Meningitis in your words

Anna Stabell's story

  • Location: UK
  • Categories: Group B meningococcal (MenB)
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
  • After effects: Other
Anna Stabell
Anna Stabell - Meningitis in your words

On Monday 7th November 2022, I was the luckiest possible person of the unlucky few.

My weekend before started fine. On Friday I was just getting my voice back from a week of not being able to speak and decided I wanted to get out of the house. My partner and I went to town on Saturday, to get a coffee, maybe look in a few shops, and I was happy to feel a little better. I did, however, shower beforehand without properly drying my hair, and thus ended up being a bit angry with myself up a as I started feeling a bit shivery when we got back. I then took a bath, and felt even more stupid as I thought I must have taken too hot a bath because now I felt even worse; nauseous even.

From this point my memories start to be fuzzy. I either started vomiting that same evening, or felt okay until Sunday afternoon. But, over these 36 hours, I do remember running back and forth from my bed to the bathroom, carrying a bucket to constantly vomit. My parter told me we ate some curry one night, and salmon another, in which I had one bite, and do not remember at all; I remember wanting grapes, ritz crackers and apple juice, so to get something easily digestible in me; I remember googling something that, like everything you google, told me I had cancer and laughing about it to my partner saying "this website tells me I have cancer, so I have to see the doctor tomorrow". I do not remember that the reason I was googling was because I saw a rash on my arms and chest, but luckily I told my partner that. I also texted my boss I would not come in the next day, but this I only know is true because it shows me on my phone that I did.

Sunday afternoon and grapes is the last thing I remember, so the following was told to me by my partner.

On Monday morning he found me laying crouched towards the side of the bed with vomit down my sleeve. He tried rolling me over, but I was stiff, heavy and moved back to my initial position. I was pale, had red spotty rashes all over my body, and non-responsive. He tried telling me he needed me to get into the shower but I looked at him with empty eyes and started moving my hands in unnatural ways. He hoped I was joking and tried to catch me off-guard, telling me he would call the ambulance to make me cut it off, but I didn't. So he called. He told them all he could remember: "she had a really bad headache", "light seemed to be painful to her", "she has been vomiting constantly", "she is unresponsive", and "she has a rash of red dots". 10 minutes later I was in an ambulance, and as they had an inkling what might be wrong with me, they started me on a general antibiotic right away. 

Thursday 10th November I woke up in a hospital room, I had tubes down my throat from my mouth and my nose, and only realised it was real when I saw my mother and father come towards me with masks on, as "they never appear in my dreams at the same time". For an unknown amount of time before this, I had vivid dreams of giving birth five times in that same hospital room, my mom arguing with the doctors, myself swimming and looking for nice cafés under the sea close to the city in which I live, swimming and running around constantly out of breath, and trying to piece together how come I was in a hospital. I came to the conclusion it had to have been my wedding, so that's why my parents were in town, and that my partner tried the "tablecloth trick" with me on the table, and that I fell to hit my head. Not that that is anything either of us have ever talked about or done, but anyway. For those wondering if people in coma can hear you, or sense anything at all, I can tell you that maybe we do. It could for all I know have been because I felt my parent's presence in the days earlier that week that made me somehow "know" that they were there. I also knew I was in a hospital. But there is also a chance, of course, that this could all have happened in the 30 seconds before waking up fully. Who knows. I did, however, have to ask the nurses who worked there if I gave birth, because it felt so real, but luckily, no five children were unexpectedly there for me to raise when I woke up.

Eventually, my doctors told me I had Bacterial Meningitis (Men B). And I won't bore you with all the details of recovery. I had the worst headaches I have ever felt, a stiff neck, kept almost vomiting, had hallucination visuals, experienced photophobia, and I was bored. Waiting every day for visiting hour, or at least a nurse to come give me some more medicine, not being able to sleep, and being in a lot of pain was all the seconds of all the seven days I was awake for. Having my mom, dad and partner come visit was what got me through those days.

I don't remember the pain I felt before I was hospitalised, weirdly, but I assume it was similar to the pain I had waking up at the hospital. And, in the aftermath, I felt no pity for myself, as much as I felt that for the people around me who had to worry. Worry about whether or not I would wake up, and worry whether I would wake up the same person. I can't believe the stress they must have been in during all of this, and I think mentally what I have struggled with since is the "what if something happens to them and I am not there to help like they helped me". I'm also more afraid of accidents, but overall, I am just more grateful than ever to be and to be around the people that I love.

On 17th November I was discharged, and went home to rest. I slowly re-built my strength and ability to eat, and by Christmas I was at home with my family in snowy Norway.

Like I said, I was the luckiest possible person out of the unlucky few who get meningitis. I was in a country in which healthcare is free (thank you NHS for saving my life), I was ill enough in the morning for my partner to call the ambulance, but had not been ill for so long it has given me proper lasting physiological harm, and not to mention the fact that I was not living alone at this point, which I had done for the previous two years. I cannot believe my luck, and feel almost guilty for taking up this space, as I today am only left with what feels like a mild to moderate chronic fatigue. I was discharged with a strong case of diplopia (double vision), but this also corrected itself after a few weeks. In February I started losing my hair, but today it has started to grow back. So today, I barely notice a difference, other than an increase in gratitude.

I feel for the people on here talking about the people they love, where the outcome has been different, and I wish there was anything at all I could do. So, I share my story now, just because I can; And to anyone who for some reason happen to be reading this: I know from the bottom of my heart that anyone who has had Meningitis, regardless of the outcome, would never switch it around. They would rather it affect themselves than someone they love. So don't feel too bad for us, and allow yourself to see yourself as just as much of a victim of that situation as well, and get the help you may need from having gone through such a traumatic experience. 


Anna (26)

Vaccines prior to illness: Meningitis A,C,W,Y

Illness: Neisseria meningitids meningitis (Men B), treated with Ceftriaxone

I know that I was one of the lucky ones, but I also know that that luck would have been in vain had it not been for the fact that doctors know what to do. It seems obvious to me that this in improving all the time, and I have faith that we won't have to see and fear Meningitis much longer. 2023.

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