Meningitis in your words

Lauren Maltby's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Lauren Maltby

I was born in London, England and moved to the U.S. at the age of six.

I was 16 when for the first time I had meningitis. I was a high school student, very active in sports, including travel soccer, swimming, and cheerleading.

I was fine the day that I became very ill. Around 7pm I walked into my parents’ bedroom complaining of feeling "strange". Initially, my parents thought it may be anxiety and suggested I go to bed early and relax. Within minutes I can remember this general discomfort throughout my body. My vision began to blur and I was becoming increasingly frightened. My parents realised it was not anxiety. I told my mom that my neck felt stiff and was difficult to move. Luckily she was knowledgeable about the common warning signs of meningitis. My parents recognised the symptoms and as I showed more signs of the illness, they wasted no time in rushing me to the Paoli Hospital (Pennsylvania) emergency room.

My memory at that stage was blurred. Walking from the car through the sliding doors of the hospital I began to vomit. My parents explained my symptoms and the nurses brought me back to a bed and began drawing blood and hooking up IV's. This is when the headache began. To this day there are no words I can use to describe the persistent and excruciating pain in my head. I experienced a sustained high-pitched ringing in my ears.

"To this day there are no words I can use to describe the persistent and excruciating pain in my head."

My parents anxiously waited in the corner of my hospital room. Given the pressure from the swelling meninges, I was crying out to the nurses for help. The pain in my head was unbearable. Someone came into the ward to perform a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to collect a spinal fluid sample. It was sent out to the lab and I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis.

Staff from DuPont Children's Hospital, in Delaware, were rushed over in an ambulance to transport me to their ICU. They began to administer a heavy dose of antibiotics. I couldn't keep anything down and was still vomiting. I was given ice chips because I was dehydrated.

I don't remember a lot in between. My parents and sister were there with me the whole time. At times they were not allowed into the ward. When they came into the ward, they were made to wear gowns and a mask. I was hospitalised for a week.

I am so lucky to have walked away from the infection with no serious damage. It was treated early enough to prevent serious long term complications

Although for a week I had trouble walking, I recovered without physical therapy.

I was diagnosed three years later with viral meningitis but had a shorter hospital stay with less severe symptoms.

Not everyone will recover as quickly and without serious lifelong problems. There is a vaccine available for bacterial meningitis and I urge everyone to get it. It takes 5 minutes and can save your life.

Lauren Maltby
March 2013