Meningitis in your words

Donna Rennie's story

  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
Donna Rennie
My name is Donna and I contracted meningitis in September 2004 aged 39.

The day started as normal, I got up for work and I felt very well.  During the morning my head began to get sore but this wasn't unusual I suffer quite often from headaches. I took some painkillers but as the day went on I began to feel feverish and sick. 

By the time I got home from work I felt awful and collapsed into my bed; my husband kept saying he should phone the doctor but I didn't want to waste anyone's time. As the evening went on my condition deteriorated, I was sick, my head ached and my limbs were painful.  By morning I had developed a rash, noise and light were beginning to make the headache unbearable, and I also had double vision.  

At this point my husband phoned NHS 24.  They suggested he do the tumbler test which showed the rash didn't go away, I think at this time my daughter had began to realise what was wrong but it still didn't cross my mind.  During the journey to the hospital the paramedics repeatedly asked me about the rash and I did think, "could this be meningitis?" but I dismissed this immediately because I thought, "not at my age".  If my children had shown any of these symptoms I would not have hesitated to get help, as a parent I knew the signs of meningitis and was always on guard if the children were unwell, I was just ignorant to the fact that meningitis could strike anyone of any age.

"Soon after this he informed me the results confirmed his suspicions; at this point I said to him, "I'm 39 I don't want to die"."

By the time I got to hospital I was unable to open my eyes, the pain from the light was unbearable, but I was still concerned that I was wasting the doctors' time.  I couldn't see what was happening but I knew there were several people working on me and I began to realise that they were very concerned.  The doctor told me that he suspected meningitis and performed a lumbar puncture. Soon after this he informed me the results confirmed his suspicions; at this point I said to him, "I'm 39 I don't want to die", he patted my hand but didn't say anything, he obviously couldn't give me any false promises. The next few days were very traumatic for everyone, but I responded well to the antibiotics they were using; I spent four days in intensive care and then a further nine days in hospital.  The hospital was unable to confirm which type of meningitis I had (the doctors said from their experience it was most likely meningococcal).

The doctors would ask me everyday if I had any questions, but I never did, until I got home, then I had lots of questions, it was at this point I contacted Meningitis Research Foundation. I wanted to know about meningitis, why it happened to me, what it had done to my body and much more. The help and answers I received were an important factor in my recovery both mentally and physically.  I recovered well - initially I was very tired and weak, and I also experienced some memory loss and painful joints. I returned to work four months after taking ill; the pain in my joints never did go away and I now have arthritis but I don't know if it is connected with the meningitis or not.  
I owe my life to my family, everyone within the NHS who worked to save me and to the many people who have supported research into meningitis.  I hope by telling my story I will help others to recognise the symptoms of meningitis and to realise that it can affect anyone regardless of age.

Donna Rennie
April 2009