Meningitis in your words

Tim Beacon's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Tim Beacon

I have read all the wonderful work the organisation does and seen some very, very sad stories. 

I am one of the lucky ones. In October 1997, I was fit and healthy, going for long runs and so on. I had previously worked in operating theatres as an Operating Department Practitioner but was now a sales manager for an orthopaedic trauma company. 

I just remember one day suddenly feeling weird, just odd. Two days later when running an outdoor course in a different capacity (for GPs!) at the end I suddenly had the most incredible headache and could hardly think straight. 

I remember in the afternoon having a strange feeling in my back. No way could I drive that evening and my friends then had to drive me to another hotel as we were running another course. Apparently I was acting out of character according to a school friend! 

"When I paid for some petrol that night I could hardly walk into the garage."

In hindsight I can see now how ill I was but one take home message is that when you start to get meningitis you simply lose the ability to think clearly. When I paid for some petrol that night I could hardly walk into the garage. Also another message is to use your gut instinct in these types of situations. If a friend seems out of sorts for whatever reason, something could be very wrong indeed. 

Gut feelings are rarely wrong. 

I struggled through the night being sick and feeling so dreadful. The next day, alone in the hotel, I felt so ill I suddenly realised something was very wrong, my head felt like it was going to burst open. Never have I experienced such incredible pain. I just about struggled out of the room and collapsed. Fortunately the wonderful owners of the small hotel came upstairs to see how I was, found me collapsed and immediately called a doctor who was there within minutes. They probably saved my life. 

I wondered why the doctor’s voice was shaking – he immediately worked out what was happening and could see how sick I was. I was semi-conscious. The next thing I knew two paramedics were next to me and again I wondered why they were being so attentive. The next thing I knew it was six days later. It had taken an hour to get me to Shrewsbury Hospital where I was taken to ITU and ventilated. My pregnant wife was told to prepare herself for the worst. I started to get a septic rash. My blood pressure was very bad as were oxygen levels in my blood. 

"Recently a girl at my daughter’s university died from meningitis. It is so hard, how tragic."

My only real memory of ITU is the anaesthetic ITU doctor saying I had made him sweat. The ITU team where amazing both in saving my life and looking after my family (I live in Bedford.) I was fortunate, I kept all my limbs, did not have brain damage or hearing loss (my family where warned both may happen). Once out of ITU I could not even walk a step. To go to the toilet with all my drips and so on took two nurses holding me up and me clinging on to a drip stand. Ten days earlier I had run nine miles. 

Afterwards, as I recovered, the one thing that affected me for several months was that I should not have been alive, it was that close. That is a very sobering thought. It was so sudden and so brutal. Finally we should all remember in the early stages for a GP (or anyone) to differentiate between very bad flu and meningitis is very hard.

Recently a girl at my daughter’s university died from meningitis. It is so hard, how tragic. I cannot get my head around it. The vaccine must be introduced, now.

Tim Beacon
March 2015