Meningitis in your words

Melanie Huff's story

  • Location: USA
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Hearing problems
Melanie Huff
I had bacterial meningitis in 2010. It all happened so fast. I remember having a stiff neck for a couple of days beforehand, but didn't think much of it as I have a spinal disorder.

The night of, I had gotten my son, who was a year and one month old then, bathed and ready for bed. We were both in bed, asleep, by 7pm due to me having to be up at 4:30am to get ready for work. At 7:30pm, I woke up with a horrible migraine that seemed to be exploding inside my head and neck. I was vomiting. I am the type to not seek medical treatment unless absolutely necessary (I have a Surgical Technology degree and can pretty much diagnose myself). However, when I could not care for my son, I knew that things were serious.

I loaded my son into his carseat in the back of my car and we started for the hospital, which was a 20 minute drive. I had called ahead to let them know we were coming. While enroute, a car passed us on the road and I couldn't stand the pain from the lights. I pulled over and called the ER back and told them that I could not make it on my own.

They sent an ambulance. The flashing lights made me vomit and I couldn't walk on my own. I remember telling the paramedic to make sure my son had his seat. I was placed on the gurney and we took off....the sirens and bumps making me vomit again. I looked behind me for my son and he was sitting in his seat next to the paramedic just as content as can be. He smiled and waved at me and I smiled back.

"When I could not care for my son, I knew that things were serious."

The next few hours are a blur. They had shot me up with Dilaudid in the ambulance and when I reached the ER, I was still holding my head and neck, writhing back and forth in the worst pain in my life (I went through 30 hours of labor pains with my son, with NO drugs). They shot me up with liquid morphine then. It still didn't touch my pain.

They were trying anything by then and gave me benadryl and other drugs that I cannot recall. It was a small town hospital. One of the nurses, bless her heart, pieced together my symptoms and told the doctor that she thought it may be meningitis. A lumbar puncture was performed and they quickly had the results. I recall the nurse shaking me and forcing me to wake up. She said to me, Miss Huff, "you have bacterial meningitis and will need hospitalization and intensive care." I thought to myself, how did I contract bacterial meningitis...??

The pain and vomiting started again with a vengeance. I was sent for a CT scan, which I barely remember. My head was packed full of infection. I had had a sinus infection for over a year and a half that finally just leaked back into my brain. The scan was the last thing I remember upon waking up in a hospital room with a light on over my head, which I was not happy about. I pushed the call for a nurse and one appeared immediately. She informed me that they had to put me in a 27 hour medicinal coma due to not being able to control my pain. They were afraid I would go into shock and die. I had already missed 2 days of work. I was in isolation, though I wasn't contagious. They weren't about to take any chances. I remained there for a total of 5 days.

"I honestly do not know how I pulled through the whole thing. For probably close to 4 years afterward, I could not allow myself to cry."

Everyone that had been in contact with me and my son had to be tested. All were negative. Before being discharged, I was taken to radiology and a PIC line was inserted into the inside of my upper right arm and was fed straight into my heart. About 6 inches and a double IV end hung out of my arm. They told me that I was to return every 12 hours for 5 days for antibiotic infusions directly into my heart and if I could not be there at every single scheduled infusion, I would have to be placed back in the hospital until the time was up. I made it everytime. I was done with hospitalization by then. I was so weak and my head and neck hurt so very badly.

My son had a respiratory infection when I got out of the hospital, go figure. I remember having to give him his breathing treatments while he slept because I was too weak to hold onto him while he squirmed and screamed through a treatment. I had to crawl around getting things ready and then I would just hang on the side of his play pen and get the treatment as close to his face as I could. Tears of exhaustion and helplessness fell. I honestly do not know how I pulled through the whole thing. For probably close to 4 years afterward, I could not allow myself to cry. Not even one tear. Couldn't even allow myself to well up with tears but not let them fall. If I did, I would what I called meningitis migraines. Horrible pain in my head and neck all over again. One time, I took 3 vicodin 750s before my pain subsided enough to see again.

I had to train myself not to cry. As a woman, that is not the easiest thing. I have random memory loss still, almost 11 years later. Sometimes I will remember what I had forgotten....sometimes I won't. Theres no rhyme or reason to what I forget. I just....forget.

"The worst pain I've ever felt.... My advice, don't be like me. Go to the doctor at least once in a while, just to check things out. It may save you a tremendous amount of pain and/or your life."

My thought process is different. I describe it as "my train doesn't go all the way to next station a lot of times". I have worse hearing problems since (I had hearing issues beforehand). I get tired and weak still easily. I had to give up working in the operating room, directly assisting surgeons. It isn't very honorable to remain working the OR and know that at any time, I could forget something vital and possibly be the reason for someone's death. That hurt me for years. I loved working in the OR.

I am coping with it all. I do know without a shadow of a doubt though, that I do not EVER want to feel the pain of meningitis again. If I do, I want to just be left to die from it. The recovery was horrible and terrifying and still on-going. Dying from infection is not a pleasant experience at all. Infection cannot be numbed or dulled. I had to endure it and I'm not sure I could do it again. The worst pain I've ever felt....

My advice, don't be like me. Go to the doctor at least once in a while, just to check things out. It may save you a tremendous amount of pain and/or your life. Me....I still don't go to the doctor or hospital unless I'm dying or having a baby. Some folks never learn....or maybe some folks are just too stubborn...God Bless.

Melanie Huff
May 2021

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