Meningitis in your words

Judith Auld's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Headaches
Judith Auld

I woke up on Saturday morning 8 December 1990 with a sore head. I figured I must have drunk more than I thought at the neighbours' Christmas mulled wine and mince pies the evening before.

By Sunday I was not feeling better. I called my mother to ask her to come on Monday for a few days and look after our 2 small children ages 4 and 8 months when my husband went back to work. I took Paracetamol but vomited it up immediately.

I called the GP surgery but they were busy and said I should drink flat lemonade. I couldn't even keep down water. This was unusual as I normally have a strong constitution.

On Monday my mother (a nurse) took one look at me and called the surgery. The doctor arrived, lifted my head, which was painful, and immediately called an ambulance. In hospital, a spinal tap confirmed viral meningitis, which I knew was not too serious.

However, after a few days I had more worrying symptoms - I could not pee. My body was becoming numb. I was diagnosed with encephalitis, an attack on the brain as well as the meninges.

By the week before Christmas, I was on the Danger List of the Intensive Care Unit in the Neurological Unit, largely unconscious for 5 days. At the eleventh hour, tests revealed a rare micro-organism causing the illness which could be treated by an antibiotic.

"The lights were going out. It was the difference between living and dying."

After 4 hours of the treatment by intravenous drip, I began to recover. My husband said "The lights were going out. It was the difference between living and dying."

I made a full recovery over time, left only with long-term intermittent head pain which is excruciating but I manage with medication and rest. I had no idea I had almost died, I was too ill to be aware. My family made sure they had someone with me the whole month I was in hospital, even overnight at the worst times. I believe this made me feel calm. For my family it was a dreadful time trying to hold a normal Christmas for our small children.

I lost my legal career, and it took a lot of work to get my career back on track, but the most important thing for me is that I was able to bring up my children with my husband and family, with our now grown-up children having known their mother.

This event was life-changing, a defining moment, I knew I was a lucky person. I have never lost sight of this and it has given me a positive approach to life.

Judith Auld
July 2018

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