Meningitis in your words

Harriet Line's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Harriet Line

I was 18 at the time I got meningitis. I was a full time college student and part time barmaid in a busy town centre pub.

I woke up on a Saturday morning, I remember it was April 23rd - St George’s day. I’d been in to town to get a few bits, and then popped into the pub I worked in seeing as I was walking past. I chatted to everyone and said I’d see them for my shift later that evening.

On the way home I started to feel unwell. I was getting a headache and my whole body started to ache and feel weak. The best way I can describe it, is that I felt like I was getting the flu.

By the time I got home I felt really tired and sick. I told my mum I was going to go to bed for a couple of hours to try and feel better before work. I remember being sick and having an awful headache. My neck ached a lot and the light hurt my eyes so much. I closed the curtains and also put on a big hoodie and pyjamas as I was really cold. I dozed in and out of sleep for a while and remember feeling worse every time I woke up.

My mum came into my room to see how I was feeling and what I wanted to do about work. I asked her if she could call them and tell them I wouldn’t be in as I didn’t have any energy in my body to get out of bed, let alone go to work. My boss told my mum that if I didn’t go to work I’d be sacked, she said I’d been in there just a few hours ago and looked totally fine. My mum came and told me what had been said, but I didn’t have the energy to care, by this point it was a struggle to stay awake. My mum said she’d leave me to rest, I remember that being around 6pm on the Saturday. I fell asleep right after that, and that is my last memory of the day.

I was brought out of an induced coma the following Thursday. I have no memory of anything in between, apart from a strange out of body experience which I’ll get to later. So after my mum left me to rest, she checked on me again before she went to bed that night. She said when she came in, I was fast asleep, and so, she went to bed herself.

"She walked in to find me cowered in the corner of my bed, totally naked, hugging my knees and “staring at her like a wild animal” in her words."

I think mother’s intuition kicked in as she woke up at 6am on the Sunday, which was very unlike her. She got straight out of bed to come and check on me. She walked in to find me cowered in the corner of my bed, totally naked, hugging my knees and “staring at her like a wild animal” in her words. She tried to come over to me but I just screamed. She said my eyes had gone black and it was like something from a horror film. Every time she came close I’d kick and punch out and just scream.

In her panic, she called her mum, my Nan, who also happened to have woken up very early that Sunday and was already dressed. My Nan and grandad drove straight round to come and help. None of them could get near me or get any sense out of me, so they called an ambulance. I’m told it took 7 people to get me into the gurney, and I had kicked and punched a lot of them in the process. I was blue-lighted to A&E, suffering fits on the way. I was then put into an induced coma.

Between that Sunday and Thursday when I was next conscious, I had a “dream”. I woke up, I was lying on my back but really high up, like if I’d lifted my head I would have head butted the ceiling. I could hear my mum and a friend of mine talking, their voices were coming from below me to the left. I tried so hard to look down but could only see the top of their heads. Just behind them I could see a window, just outside the window was a nurses’ station and I could see nurses sitting at the computer. I heard a conversation about me having meningitis and how unwell I was. I tried so hard to look down to where I knew I was lying below. But I couldn’t look at myself no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep again. Of course I’d never actually woken up, I now truly believe that you should talk to people when they’re in a coma. I might have only been for a minute, but for that minute I was in the room with them and could hear everything they were saying.

When the doctors brought me round on the Thursday. I was very confused about what day it was. I had a terrible pain in my back where I’d had a lumbar puncture performed, and a terrible sore throat from having a tube down there for the best part of a week.

The room was exactly as I’d seen it in my “dream”, the visitor chairs to my left, the window behind them and the nurses’ station just outside.

Once I’d woken up, the doctor came in to do his checks, he said he was going to explain to me why I was in hospital. I told him I knew why, I’d heard my mum say I had meningitis. They were all a bit baffled by that! The doctor told me I was a miracle. He said I’d been about 10mins from death that Sunday morning, thank god my mum woke up. He said he couldn’t believe I wasn’t showing any signs of brain damage or any problems to my limbs. Everything worked fine. I was kept in intensive care for a few days.

My visitors had to come in two at a time and wear aprons and face masks over their mouths and noses. I slept a lot and felt like I’d been hit by a train.

Eventually I was moved to a general ward. I had some physio to get my legs moving again after laying down for so long. I remember trying to go to the toilet on my own for the first time. I managed to walk to the bathroom, but fell when I got there and everything went red, all I could see was red and I went boiling hot, and felt like I was going to throw up. I managed to find my way to the sink and splashed cold water on my face. I sat on the floor until my sight came back. I eventually managed to get back to my bed. The small 10 steps to the toilet had been way too much for me, and I slept for the rest of the day. That’s when I realised how weak my body was.

"Going to bed that first night was horrible. Being back in the room where it all started. What if it happened again tonight?"

It took another 3 weeks for me to be well enough to go home. I was allowed home on day visits during my final week, but still had to sleep at the hospital to have my fluids. I remember being so desperate to get home, however once I was fully discharged and got home, I had this overwhelming feeling of being so scared that there were no nurses at home to look after me. Going to bed that first night was horrible. Being back in the room where it all started. What if it happened again tonight? There are no nurses or doctors checking on me every 2 hours, what if I die?

It took a few weeks before I felt safe. I was still extremely weak and spent my days at home watching TV and having lots of visitors come to see me.

After 6 months I was allowed to return to work, it’s safe to say I was no longer sacked!

I was one of the very lucky ones who made a full recovery. I suffer bad headaches now and my immune system is shattered. I also get extremely tired and feel like my body is older than it should be. But other than that I’m fine. I’m here to tell the tale. I will always be eternally grateful to everyone who played a part in saving my life. I’m very lucky.

Harriet Line
May 2015