Meningitis in your words

Barbara Kelsey's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Hearing problems
Barbara Kelsey

I had been experiencing headaches on and off for about a week, but I had put it down to stress and lack of sleep. I had just become a mother for the first time, Lewis had just turned 6 weeks old and I was getting ready for my brother’s wedding.

On the morning of the wedding, my headache was so severe and I felt like I was constantly popping painkillers, but eventually the pain lifted a little, and I was able to relax and celebrate with the family. We were staying in the hotel and the next morning, July 17th 2011, I awoke about 6am and I was violently ill, I felt awful, I was freezing, my joints felt like they were aching. I had experienced sore joints shortly after giving birth and the doctors had assured me it was ‘just a hormonal thing’. I figured that although I hadn’t drunk much the night before, I must have had a hangover. I crawled back into bed, but after an hour or two I was in so much pain that I woke my husband. He must have been alarmed as he rang my mum's room to ask her to come immediately. My mum was so concerned, meningitis was something she worried about when we were growing up, so she was concerned that the symptoms I was displaying could only mean one thing.  

"The symptoms I was displaying could only mean one thing"

An ambulance was rang, and by this time I was so weak, it hurt to open my eyes. I felt like someone was hitting my head with a sledgehammer and I had a temperature. Despite displaying all the symptoms my blood work came back fine, and I was released home with co-codamol as doctors explained that it was a tension headache. The following day was much the same and again an ambulance was called as I was so ill, however doctors were reluctant do run any tests as they felt it was not worth it, at this point I barely remember the final night I spent at home, I only remember being in the ambulance again for the third time on the way to A&E, my husband looked very concerned and an paramedic was asking me questions but I was unable to answer.

Once at the hospital a doctor gave me morphine for the pain, and I was admitted to a ward, I had a lumbar puncture and started immediately on antibiotics. I drifted in and out of consciousness for several days as doctors explained to my family that it was up to my body to fight the meningitis. My family took it in turns to sit with by my bedside day and night, while also helping my husband look after our 6 week old son.

Luckily, after a several days of powerful antibiotics I started to turn a corner. I remained in hospital for 2 weeks before doctors reluctantly discharged me, but I needed to be at home with my son, we were still only getting to know each other after all. I had to return two hospital 3 times a day for 7 more days for my IV antibiotics.

Luckily I made a full recovery, my hearing has been affected slightly, but it’s a small price to pay, as things could have been a lot worse. I still worry now when I get headaches, and I am constantly on edge that my son who is now 17 months will get meningitis. It was an illness that I knew very little about, but I am aware that things could have ended so differently, and I feel so lucky.