Meningitis in your words

Claire Smith's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Claire Smith

I was 17 years old when I contracted meningococcal septicaemia in January 2001. It was a few weeks before my 18th birthday.

I had been feeling unwell for a number of days but didn’t really think much of it, I just thought I was getting a cold or something. After a few days of feeling unwell I was due to go back to college after the Christmas holidays but had woken up feeling very poorly and sick, so I had asked my mum to stay off work to look after me.

My mum must have been concerned as she got the doctor to come and see me. He diagnosed a bad case of flu and told me to stay in bed and rest. As the day went on I got worse and worse, having to crawl to the bathroom to be sick as I couldn’t walk and felt very weak and achy.

"The doctors didn’t hold out much hope of me making it."

As I got weaker I didn’t have the strength to get up and I led on the bathroom floor unable to move. At this point my mum and dad noticed a rash on my leg and immediately called the doctor who told them to do the glass test. The rash didn’t disappear so my mum and dad rushed me to hospital, as it would have taken too long for an ambulance to get to us.

I can remember getting to the hospital and having a blanket put over my face, as I couldn’t stand the light. They did a lumbar puncture where they take fluid from your spinal cord. You have to curl up into a ball, which was extremely difficult as I ached so much. This was the last thing I remember. I was seriously ill and the doctors told my parents that they didn’t hold out much hope of me making it.

I vaguely remember waking up, I can remember having loads of wires coming out of my neck, up my nose through to my stomach, in my hands and my chest. What I remember most of all though was the excruciating pain I was in, I honestly thought my head was going to explode.

After a few days in Intensive Care I was moved to the High Dependency Unit were I stayed for a couple of days before then being moved to a normal ward. I was in hospital for two weeks, (although I had to go back for a few days as I caught an infection) and was home in time for my 18th birthday.

Considering how very ill I was I was extremely lucky I didn’t have to have any amputations with the severity of blood poisoning I had and I made a full recovery. I did lose the sight in one of my eyes but this came back after a few months and I also suffered with headaches for a few months.

I am extremely lucky to be here today and can’t even put into words how much I thank the doctors and nurses who saved my life.

I am now training to be a counsellor and hope to one day work for Meningitis Research Foundation as a volunteer so I can help other people who have, or are going through, what I went through. I think people don’t realise the effects that it has on you mentally and this Foundation has amazing people volunteering for them who have been through it themselves. They can help/talk to others who are going through the same thing and are able to understand. It makes a huge difference.