Meningitis in your words

Victoria Constable's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Teenager
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Full recovery
Victoria Constable

I was in my second year at Exeter University when I got meningococcal bacterial meningitis. I had been feeling ill for a few months, mainly with sinusitis that wouldn't go away but it was on a Monday night after going to see a gig at the student union that I came home and began to feel very unwell.

At first I thought it was a severe headache or migraine but the pain became so intense in a matter of minutes that I knew something was really wrong, even though I had no idea what. I went upstairs to bed on my own and thankfully my housemates were so worried about me they came upstairs and checked on me. By that point I was disorientated, having speech problems and becoming increasingly aggressive.

All I remember was extreme pain and asking for help. My friends called an ambulance straight away- they thought that perhaps someone may have spiked my drink at the gig. My last memories are of the paramedics arriving and leading me into the ambulance. I was in so much pain I could barely see and once I stepped into the ambulance all my recollection of the next few days disappeared. I was technically conscious but I was totally unaware of my actions- something that to this day still freaks me out and is something I find hard to get my head around

"It seems that when I arrived at A & E the doctors refused to take me seriously because it looked like I was high on drugs"

Apparently I was violent and aggressive and was conscious for a good 24 hours but I have no memory of this at all. It seems that when I arrived at A & E the doctors refused to take me seriously because it looked like I was high on drugs- and being a student and just having come from a gig they assumed I was a druggie who just needed to calm down. This couldn't have been further from the truth and my friends insisted and pleaded with them that this could not be the case as I had never taken drugs in my life. It was only thanks to them and the paramedics who also suggested that they thought it was nothing to do with drugs, that they finally decided to do a spinal tap and various other tests.

By this point I had deteriorated so much that I fell into a coma. From what people have told me afterwards they finally diagnosed meningitis and I was in the ICU for a week. Considering my treatment had been delayed so much the doctors told my parents that it was highly likely that I would be left with brain damage or a hearing impairment at the very least- that was if I ever recovered at all. For my parents this must have been horrible and they were given lots of leaflets about how to deal with a bereavement.

I suppose it was then a bit of a surprise when I woke up a few days later, totally disorientated and still feeling very strange with some memory loss, but despite this- alive with no real severe after effects. It took me a while to recover physically but I have found that, although I am physically okay, the trauma left me with a lot of emotional and mental problems including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. I have also found it hard to deal with the fact that I survived with no after effects yet other people have not been so lucky.

Every time I read in the newspaper or the media about someone dying because of meningitis I feel such an emotional connection to them and I don't understand why they didn't make it and I did. The only explanation I can think of is that life is just unfair.

Victoria Constable
November 2012