Meningitis in your words

Stephen Smith's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Pneumococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Partner
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Hearing problems
Stephen Smith

My partner Stephen suffered pneumococcal meningitis, septicaemia, pneumonia and multiple organ failure in August 2006. He was 27 years old.

He became very ill suddenly whilst working alone during the night; he telephoned home in great distress about a terrible headache he had. I rushed to his work and it was apparent to me that he needed to go to hospital, although I did think it was possibly a bad migraine!

He deteriorated rapidly whilst in A&E and began to display more (but not all) of the meningitis symptoms. He was terribly sick, lost his co-ordination, got a temperature and eventually had seizures. By 11am he was ventilated and fully sedated in the Intensive Care Unit and by 12pm he was diagnosed.

This was the beginning of a seven-week intervention to save Stephen's life. Stephen's organs began to fail within a day, he had to undergo cranial surgery to relieve pressure around the sinuses - which is never a decision taken lightly with somebody so ill - he required support for his heart, lungs and kidneys and blood transfusions. He also required a tracheotomy to help him breathe. This was actually done on the ward because the doctor didn't think he would survive the journey to theatre. Some days we would come one step forward to go two steps back. 

I was told on two occasions in the first three weeks that Stephen would be likely to die shortly, which you can imagine was very depressing, but I did understand that he had suffered enough as well.

Stephen woke up quite surprisingly after four weeks and thankfully had no recollection of what had happened prior to that day. No memory has returned of the Intensive Care month, or the events leading up to his admission to hospital, however he had a very colourful account of what happened the month he was sedated, this is due to all the medication that was used.

Stephen stayed in hospital for a further three weeks on the high dependency unit and then on a ward. During that time we concentrated on his mobility as he had lost a huge amount of muscle and weight and was skeletal. In the day I would take him around the local park in a wheelchair and he would walk a few steps more each day.

Being young Stephen just wanted to get on with life so he returned home and, although that was difficult and frustrating for him at first, we tried to get him back fit and active and eating properly. 

In the long term, Stephen has lost some of his hearing, he gets pain in his knees and legs regularly with a certain amount of weakness, he feels numbness in his fingers and he has continued problems with his sinuses and nosebleeds that are still being treated.

Stephen returned to work part time in December 2006 (against the doctors' advice!) and returned full time in February 2007. He has since been promoted, done lots of travelling, including USA and a trip around Europe on his beloved motorbike in 2008!

"I really don't worry about trivial things in life anymore, we are just living for every day."

As a family it has brought us closer and as a partner I really don't worry about trivial things in life anymore, we are just living for every day because I have learned that your health is the most important thing.

I have taken up jogging, lost a lot of weight and taken part in the Great Manchester Run in 2008 and 2009 to raise awareness of this dreadful disease and to raise funds for the continued work of Meningitis Research Foundation.

Rebecca Styles
June 2009

Pneumococcal bacteria
Pneumococcal bacteria
A major cause of meningitis