Meningitis in your words

Richard Coates's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Memory loss
Richard Coates

I contracted bacterial meningitis back in 2008 – I was 27 at the time.

I initially woke up and turned to check the time on my alarm clock. The pain that came from my neck was agonising, I couldn't turn it at all.

At the time I was in the process of buying my first house, so still lived with my parents but they were on holiday! I managed to get dressed, call my GP and book a taxi to get there. I was furious when he told me that I had “a crick in my neck" and then said: "What do you want me to do about it?" I didn't get a better explanation.

The next day my neck felt a little better, however, just about every other joint in my body ached. I refrained from going back to my GP due to the lack of bedside manner that I had received the previous day.

The next day a rash appeared on the palms of both hands, the first thing I did was to do the tumbler test, the rash faded and I thought no more about it.

"When she saw the distress I was in with my headaches she told me that she was going to take an extra vial of blood and test it for something else"

The next day was the day my parents returned (thankfully) as severe headaches started and the rash was now on my feet too (but still fading). Unfortunately by this point it was the weekend and the GP was shut, so my mum took me to the local A&E.

The young student doctor I saw there told me that it was probably just a viral infection and that it would go away on its own. Sunday was exactly the same and I took the young doctor’s advice of rest and relaxation. Monday morning and the headaches had become so intense that I had barely slept the night before, the rash on my hands was still fading but the rash on my feet did not!

Back to the GP and a different doctor. This time I was told that I may have some other random virus and arranged for me to have blood tests taken by the practice nurse. The rash on my feet was not even looked at and a comment of "You don't have meningitis" was passed to me when I mentioned it.

Finally, I got to see somebody who really cared: the nurse. When she saw the distress I was in with my headaches she told me that she was going to take an extra vial of blood and test it for something else (I don't remember what that was, but it probably saved my life!). The test of course came back positive – although I was still told that it was probably viral meningitis by yet another doctor.

I was then sent into hospital for treatment, a whole week after the initial stiff neck symptoms where a lumbar puncture confirmed that it was bacterial meningitis. I don't really remember much more of my time at hospital only that I kept getting really cold (but in reality burning up), more of the headaches and loved ones being with me (my now wife never left my side) whenever I was conscious enough to notice.

I made a full recovery although that now feels like a miracle having lived with the symptoms for so long before diagnosis. I did have a bout of intracranial hypertension during my recovery which was directly related to the meningitis which meant more lumbar punctures unfortunately! I still get slight headaches from time to time but nothing severe and my short term memory is a little worse than before.

I am now in training for the Great North Run on behalf of MRF in a hope that I can give something back to all of the researchers that ultimately saved my life and hopefully help to prevent it happening to others.

Richard Coates
May 2010