Meningitis in your words

Shirali Patel's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Group W meningococcal (Men W)
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Child
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Shirali Patel

Last year my daughter Shirali finished sixth form and got a place at the University of Cambridge to study medicine. We couldn’t have been more proud. We weren’t made aware that there was an important meningitis vaccine that she should get from the GP before going to university, so off she went without it.

When Shirali was back for the Christmas holidays she became seriously ill. On the Monday before Christmas she woke up suddenly with an inflamed throat and told me she didn’t feel well. We took her to the GP who said she was just a little unwell with flu but said to take paracetomol and keep an eye on it.

On Tuesday she got a lot worse and had a fever which we tried to keep under control with paracetomol. On Wednesday she was still feeling ill but I had to go to work so left her at home. She’s a medical student but even she did not know that her illness was about to become so life threatening. Within around 2-3 hours she rapidly declined. She couldn’t even get to the bathroom without a real struggle.

My son had stayed at home and he got her to the GP. Realising the seriousness of the situation the GP called an ambulance to get her straight to A&E. Even then she was still deteriorating. She was taken into the ICU where at first the doctors thought she may have leukemia. It was later diagnosed that she in fact had meningococcal W septicaemia (MenW).

She was critically ill and the doctors prepared us for the worst, telling us she had little chance of survival. All I kept thinking was that if we’d known about the MenACWY vaccine the summer before she started university she could have got the vaccine and she would never have got ill.

Thanks to the quick treatment she received in hospital she pulled through and she was able to leave hospital a month later - in January this year. We feel very lucky that she has made a good recovery. If my son had not been at home that day she would not have made it. She’s had to defer university for a year while she recovers but this is a small price to pay.

"If other parents knew what I know now, they would all check whether their kids are eligible to get the free MenACWY vaccine"

I don’t think parents are being given enough information about how dangerous this disease is. Teenagers my daughter’s age should be getting the MenACWY vaccine from their GP, but uptake of the vaccine has been worryingly low. My daughter was one of those teenagers who should have got her vaccine from the GP, but didn’t.

If other parents knew what I know now, they would all check whether their kids are eligible to get the free MenACWY vaccine and book them an appointment as soon as possible so they can stop this happening to them too.

Check MenACWY eligibility

Dee Patel
November 2017