Meningitis in your words

Dorothy Dunn's story

  • Location: Northern Ireland
  • Categories: Viral
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Dorothy Dunn

On 12th February 2004 I was on such a high because my first grandchild was born, a beautiful baby girl named Becca.

Three weeks later I started to have severe headaches. I got an emergency appointment with a GP and the doctor gave me some painkillers. The headaches continued and I also became sick. My partner, Ken, took me to the Health Centre on Tuesday night and I was given tablets for my sinuses. I continued to be very sick the next day, so Ken took me back to the Health Centre on Wednesday night. I was given antibiotics and told it was probably my sinuses. 

On Thursday I felt very ill and even said to a friend of mine that I was with the doctor last night and I might have thought I had meningitis. 

The pain became very severe at 5.30pm and I started feeling pain going down my spine. I knew there had to be something seriously wrong. We phoned the doctor but he refused to come out and Ken took me there. By this time I could not really communicate and just wanted to lie down. I could hear the doctor asking me questions but I could not answer him. He told Ken he could not get any sense out of me and thought it was a migraine. I was given diazepam tablets to take home. Ken refused to take me home and demanded that I should be sent to hospital. The doctor reluctantly agreed. Ken took me to hospital in the car and I was admitted straight away.

"Meningitis is perceived as a young person's illness."

In the hospital ward, doctors kept asking me questions but I was unable to answer. At this stage I was semi-conscious. Next morning I was taken for a brain scan and then a lumbar puncture. I was diagnosed with meningitis and moved to a single room. Treatment began straight away that Friday but by the next Wednesday I was still not responding to the treatment. Test results then came back from Birmingham to say I had Herpes Simplex meningitis, which is a very rare form.

I was in hospital for a month. Getting back on my feet was quite slow but I made a good recovery. I have numbness at my right temple. No-one knows why, but it does not affect my day-to-day health.

I am back working at my job as a scheme co-ordinator for the elderly. I feel my work helped me to get back on my feet and I had very good support from my employers. I also got great support from the Meningitis Research Foundation team in Belfast. 

I know that without medicines being available I would not be here. I try to do as much fundraising as I can because it is an awful disease.

At 52, I feel that I was not taken seriously about my illness because of my age. Meningitis is perceived as a young person's illness. I still get quite traumatised about it but I am really grateful that Ken did not allow me to be sent home with two diazepam tablets. He saved me. I am glad I am here today to tell my story.

This story is dedicated to Ken, who sadly passed away in February 2009.

Dorothy Dunn
March 2009