On the 23rd of April 2022 I was admitted to Peterborough hospital for suspected meningitis. Prior to this point I had been unwell since the 13th of April. It started simple with vomiting. I thought nothing of it. Must be a sickness bug. Then I started to become weak and had persistent painful headaches. I tried to get stronger and decided to go on my holiday in Brighton. I Went to a&e in Brighton to be told it’s a sinus infection. Was given antibiotics. I continued to get worse.
The headaches stopped my sleep I couldn’t regulate my temperature I became so weak I struggled to walk. I lost appetite and on my last day of holiday was sick after breakfast. I also had a horrible sensation that I was falling like a drop rollercoaster but I wasn’t I was sat on my bed. It was all in my mind. At this point I had every meningitis symptom except the rash. But I didn’t know what meningitis was in detail other than it caused a rash. I arrived home in Peterborough on the 21st of April at this point I could barely walk and my mum had to support me. I still thought just a sinus infection.
On Friday the 22nd I went to a&e again but at Peterborough. Had blood tests, temperature taken, blood pressure and a full body check. I was sent home and told to take paracetamol. On Saturday the 23rd I deteriorated fast, I had unbearable headaches I was vomiting couldn’t walk and my eye sight would go and return, at this point my family knew it wasn’t a sinus infection I was rushed to a&e by my mum and admitted for suspected meningitis. All of this is just the beginning of my story with meningitis. From here my memory lacks. Which is for the best. I remember parts that I can explain but may never remember the full extent. A post meningitis symptom. I was admitted in the evening straight away had a cannula put into my hand and a catheter to help me wee as I hadn’t been able to for days. I filled up bags quickly apparently. I was put in the a&e ward here I began my antibiotics.
I remember the lights being blinding in the ward and again I struggled to sleep. I had my blood pressure checked often and my temperature which was high 40 degrees. For reference normal body temperature is about 36 ish. The staff kept a close eye on me and mum and dad took shifts to be with me. I moved wards on the 26th of April in the early hours of the morning. And continued treatment. I had a CT scan and X-RAYS.
At this point I was scared because meningitis effects your brain I wasn’t understanding why I was in hospital and I was always In pain. The hospital did what they could but it’s not wise to give strong painkillers to the young, I’ve just turned 20 just for reference. From here I was told I needed a lumbar puncture. A procedure where a thin needle is inserted between the bones in your lower spine. This procedure was necessary to diagnose my meningitis. I was given 2 sets of local anaesthetic because 1 wasn’t strong enough for me and then the procedure took place. Although I couldn’t feel it that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the anxiety I felt and my mum felt watching me and holding my hands while I had this done. I was told after the procedure I would have pain in my back and potentially severe headaches. At this point I still couldn’t regulate temperature. The pain was so bad apparently I said to my dad “it’s like ballon’s popping inside my brain” and from what I can remember it was it was horrendous. I don’t remember much more of week 1.
The next thing I know I’m in my own room because I have a super bug called MRSA. They allowed my mum to stay in hospital with me because she was positively impacting my treatment. Both my parents were and I will forever be thankful for everything they did for me and have and will continue to do. They are truly amazing. Next I had an MRI scan on my head and brain. This was probably the most relaxing thing the white noise allowed me 30 minutes sleep. For the next week I continued my antibiotics 2 times a day. It was hard my cannula had to be changed because it was burning when the antibiotics went through, I’m scared of doctors and needles so my parents had to help distract me. I had blood tests every 2 days I think but it was enough I was struggling mentally and physically. Those that new sent love and things to distract me which I greatly appreciated and my wonderful parents kept me distracted and supported whenever I needed it. I tried and continued to be brave I let the doctors do whatever was best for me even if I was scared.
At some point I had an eye appointment and found pressure had built in my eyes. Scary right. They could monitor me though and I was in the best place. Funny story during this appointment I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the face frame sat in my wheelchair. I had 28 rounds of antibiotics and got stronger every day. I had treatment for my MRSA which they found in my nose. I began to eat again and tried to walk more each day. Each day was a battle there wasn’t a day I didn’t cry to my mum or dad and say “I can’t do this anymore” but I did. I’m proud. I had visits from my boyfriend who was amazing and made me smile and cuddled me to sleep. I had doctors visit and check me .Regular blood pressure and temperature checks and anything I needed I was lucky enough medically I had. I had the neurologist come in and assess me and she was brilliant she could see the pain and gave me some breathing exercises to help me and they did. The last hurdle of the hospital stay. In the last week because of my lack of mobility I had stomach shots as I call them. Don’t know the official term but basically it stopped my blood from clotting.
Now these were only painful short term and nothing I couldn’t handle but because of the sheer amount of pain and needles I had seen i hated it. But once again persevered because I knew I needed it. I eventually was discharged from Peterborough hospital after 14 days. Now I wanna say a massive thank you to the NHS and the incredible staff at Peterborough hospital who without i wouldn’t be here now. The nurses were incredible and supported me through every stage and for that I thank them.
All of this could been avoided so easily if I had just had a meningitis vaccine but I didn’t. But what I can do is stop other people from making the same mistake. If my story can encourage people to get vaccinated or learn the signs of meningitis then my experience is worth it. My story isn’t over yet I’m still struggling. My memory loss and headaches are persistent. I’ve had to basically retrain my body to walk. The body image issues and mental health strain from what I went through may never go away. But I will continue to push though with the support of my amazing family and friends. I beat meningitis and i continue to every day. But 1 in 10 people die from it and I count myself incredibly lucky that I’m here alive and on my journey to get back to some form of life. 4 weeks post hospital I’m getting stronger I still have the after effects to live with but I’m getting there and I’m so thankful to be able to recover.
Samantha Louise Field