Meningitis in your words

Matt Collino's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Matt Collino

Matt was in his second month at Loughborough university in 2010, age 19.

He hadn't been feeling well and didn't go to football practice that particular evening which was unlike him. He called me saying he felt so tired and unwell. I encouraged him to go to the university doctor the next morning which he did.

He was told that he most likely had 'freshers flu' and to take paracetamol and have a sleep. He decided to go and stay with his girlfriend at the time who was a short train ride away in Nottingham as he hardly knew anyone at his university and didn't want to seem a wimp. That decision saved his life, not to be alone.

He can't really remember the train journey as he felt so odd particularly as he described later his cold hands and feet.

On arrival in Nottingham and after a conversation with me again I persuaded him to get his girlfriend to take him to a nearby casualty as there was no local GP open. She did, and Matt was told again he probably had flu and to go and rest. They returned to her university flat and went to bed.

"I don't think this guy’s going to make it."

Worried, I called his mobile again some hours later. Matt didn't answer but his girlfriend did. She said Matt was very hot and was not making sense when speaking and was really sleepy.

We still hadn't thought of meningitis despite being a doctor and nurse ourselves, as Matt had no rash and hadn't complained of a headache at all.

My husband and I decided to go and get Matt and take him to see my brother who was a GP near Nottingham. I stayed behind to look after my younger children. Fortunately on this occasion my husband didn't stop on the motorway for a coffee as was usual, but drove the three hours straight to Nottingham (another decision that helped saved Matt’s life).

When he got to Matt’s girlfriend flat he could see Matt was gravely ill, he decided not to wait for an ambulance in case of a delay (a further life saving decision we were later told).

"Matt’s only recollection of all of this is was his dad's voice"

To this day my husband doesn't know how he found the strength but he carried Matt to the back seat of the car. He drove the short distance to Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, and parked in an ambulance bay as there was no parking near the entrance, which got some strange looks but the attention needed.

The casualty doctor came out and saw Matt in the back seat and in minutes he was in the resuscitation room and the medical teams begun their life saving work.

Matt now had a rash appearing, his heart was in a dangerous arrhythmia and he had a lot of pressure on the brain. My husband was told to call me as they felt they'd hopefully keep Matt alive on a ventilator until I got to the hospital so we could be with him but they stressed he was gravely ill and unlikely to pull through.

Matt’s only recollection of all of this is was his dad's voice, the bright lights of the resuscitation room and a male voice saying, "I don't think this guy’s going to make it." He remembers thinking “who are they talking about?”

Matt spent four days in intensive care and a further two weeks in high dependency and neurological wards. Initially he couldn’t walk, speak and his eyesight was affected. Intense rehabilitation meant he returned to university later that year and went on to complete his degree eventually. He returned to football but not at the level he previously played at because his right foot remained affected by the meningitis and his large toe never woke up. That’s little daily reminder of the amazing escape he had and miraculous recovery - thank God. We are forever grateful to the Queens Medical Centre Medical team.

My grandfather died of the disease aged 28 and my niece also had it age four. It's not a hereditary disease so I'm keen to get the message out there and encourage everyone eligible to have the vaccines available to protect themselves and also know the sign and symptoms of meningitis.

To university students my advice is to trust your instincts. If you or a friend are unwell get someone to check on you regularly don't go to your room on your own. Be aware of the signs and symptoms and seek further medical help. If you call an ambulance, mention the word meningitis as it helps them prioritise the call.

Debbie Collino
September 2016