Meningitis in your words

Vincent Duru's story

  • Categories: Bacterial meningitis
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Amputations
Vincent Duru

It all started in the beginning of October 2011. It all started out with flu-like symptoms.

The typical seasonal flu: the headaches, the nausea, high temperatures and all. But after a couple of days, it twisted to something serious. I didn’t really know what it could be, but the symptoms kept overstepping the normal boundaries of the typical flu with such a massive sour throat.

This is something that I rarely experienced in my entire life. The sore throat could not allow me to eat or even to swallow simple things like saliva and fluids properly. A couple of days after came the fever. It always returned during the evenings while my body temperature would shoot over the ceiling. On October 11, I went to the surgery and was attended to by a nurse sister by the name of Lucy. Lucy was the first person to draw my attention to the possible health problems I might be having. 

On the following morning, October 12, 2011, just as Lucy advised me, I phoned up my surgery and booked for an appointment to see my GP. I eventually got to the surgery 5 minutes behind the time. By then, I realized that someone has already gone in to see the doctor (GP). I had to wait for the next 30 minutes before I was invited in by a stern-looking Indian lady. Right inside her office, she immediately made it clear to me that she got only 5 minutes to spend with me. 

I started by telling her that I had a whole lot of health problems, to which she retorted immediately that she could only do 5 minutes, that’s it. Her countenance and mannerisms were so off-putting and unprofessional. I could see that she could not hide her anger towards me for coming late. My effort to explain things to her was met with deaf ears and seemed to fuel her anger even more.

During the consultation, the Dr. was generally unsympathetic and standoffish throughout. She just seemed irritated at the fact that I had been late. After, I felt confused and stopped short at the door, and asked her if she could at least check my blood pressure. She refused and told me there was no need for that. I left her office and got another appointment slot on October 25, 2011. I then went off to my job. I also bought some over-the-counter flu medication (Lemsip) and paracetamol. I frequently started taking painkillers consisting of Paracetamol, Lemsip and Neurofen, especially in the evenings and during work periods. I took as many as 6—8 doses in each 24-hour period, usually having all medications at once, consisting of two tablets of Paracetamol, two tablets of Neurofen and a sachet of Lemsip.

"My whole body was aching like hell. I was totally confused. I have never experienced this type of health situation in my life. "

I woke up a couple of hours later, 8 AM precisely on that Saturday morning October 22, 2011. I discovered that the pain in my muscles and weakness of my joints persisted regardless of all the painkillers I took earlier. Then it dawned on me that some other thing could be the cause of my sickness and all the symptoms I had been presenting. My whole body was aching like hell. I was totally confused. I have never experienced this type of health situation in my life. 

But what could be the cause remained a mystery to me. This kicked in the fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty and the unthinkable. Could this be what I had been dreading? Could it be the monster that ate up my dad? Could it be the stroke that came knocking at my door? How about all the exercises and the dieting that I have been through? Has all my effort failed me? All these and a lot more thoughts were racing right inside me. My head was all over the place.

As it was a Saturday, I knew that I would not be able to see my GP as the practice was not open on weekends and the only option to get myself to the hospital was to dial for an ambulance since I could not drive there myself. I had witnessed my Dad having a stroke in my teenage years and struggled with it until he died 28 months later. He could not talk or move. It was traumatic for the whole family who nursed him during this period. My father was 77 years old when he died. I was so scared that the same was about to happen to me. 

Then, I couldn't think of what to do as it was a Saturday. The practice surgery would not be open at the weekends. I thought about the possibility of driving myself to the nearest hospital, but it would be a risk. I would pose a great danger to other road users. I decided to call for the service of the London ambulance to convey me to the hospital. I called 999.

To be honest, I was expecting a quick rush to the hospital, given the way I felt. But no! They started asking me every relevant and irrelevant question they could think of. Maybe the fact that I was not unconscious or laid critically in bed has cast a shadow of doubt in their judgment of my situation. From the information given to them, I should have been critical; but there I was, they thought, walking around unaided.

The paramedic asked what the problem was and asked me whether I had had a fall. I told them that I had had a fall in the early hours of the morning. I explained that I had pain and weakness in the right side of my body. I told them that I had an extremely sore throat and pain in my neck region and had been suffering from fluey symptoms, including a temperature and rigors. I also said that I had a dull pain in my right hand. I told them that I was scared that I might be having a stroke. The paramedics then checked my blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. They told me that my blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature were a bit raised. I was taking short and fast breaths, so they proceeded asking me if anyone had heart disease in my family. I told them that my father had experienced a stroke and died. They seemed keen to reassure me that I was not suffering from a stroke. 

"I have never come across anyone who has suffered from meningitis. There was no way I could suspect it. I only heard that meningitis usually attacks little kids. "

They did confirm that I had high blood pressure, high body temperature, fever and racing heartbeat and pulse. At this point in my life, I have never come across anyone who has suffered from meningitis. There was no way I could suspect it. I only heard that meningitis usually attacks little kids. All I could relate to be the stroke which I witnessed in the case of my dad. I kept telling them that I might be having a stroke episode. But they calm me down after their routine check and assured me that it was not stroke as I suspected.

When they asked me whether I had any medical conditions, I told them that I had high blood cholesterol and that I had been trying to reduce it through active lifestyle. I was then asked whether I was on any medication. I confirmed what I had explained to them earlier, that I had flu and a serious sore throat. I said that I had gone to my GP on October 18, 2011 and that the GP had advised me to get flu medication from over the counter. I reiterated what I had said when I called 999 for the ambulance but explained the position in further detail. 

I explained that I was on Lemsip, Paracetamol and Neurofen medication. One of the paramedics asked me whether I had been taking the medication at the same time and I confirmed that I had. He asked me if I knew that the decongestant also contained Paracetamol, as most of them do. I told him that I had not checked this, so I didn’t know. 

The paramedic then seemed to immediately conclude that I had probably had an accidental overdose of Paracetamol. He told me that all I was suffering from was the side effects of the overdose. He went on to say that I should go back to my room, lie down and have plenty of rest. He said that I should take the medication at four-hour intervals alternately and never take both at the same time. I was surprised at how arbitrarily they concluded everything. I told them that I had requested an ambulance to take me to the hospital to get to the bottom of what was wrong and to receive treatment for it

After the paramedics had gone, I went back to my house and went to sleep. As I went back to my bed, I could not help thinking instinctively that those paramedics could have gotten it all wrong. This was because I felt that they did not wholly understand what I was on about.

I did as they instructed me and slept all day long. I basically slept all day until around 4:00 PM when my boss, Chris from CIO Security, called to ask how I was. I told him that I was still sick, and he asked me if I had done anything about my condition. I told him my experience with the ambulance services and expressed my fear that it might be more than what they thought. He offered to call an ambulance for me, but I said I should do what they said, especially as I had taken a lot of painkillers. I thought that if I called them again, they would simply repeat what they had already said. 

I planned to leave it 24 hours, at least, to see if things settled down and to see whether what I had been suffering was the effects of all the painkillers. I said that I was a bit scared. Chris then came up with an idea that saved me later. Why not call one of your friends to come and stay with you over the night? He asked. I told him that would be a good idea. I resolved to call one of my friends before the night set in. Chris knew that I lived alone. He also asked whether I had anything in to eat. I replied “NO”. 

After speaking with Chris, I was considering who to call. After a couple of minutes, he called back, telling me that he had already called John, one of his staff to come and stay with me.

John was working at a shop 5 minutes’ walk away from my house. He also told me that John would be getting me something to eat. This was because I told him before that I had not taken anything for the day. I thanked him and went back to sleep.

John arrived at about 7:30 PM and I just threw the key down for him to let himself in as I felt too unwell to come down. He brought some food with him, but I was unable to eat. I chatted with John for an hour or so before I excused myself to go back to sleep. John had to enjoy his own company while I was asleep, but he found everything quite odd. That was my recollection of the event of that evening. However, according to John, things turned ugly later that night.

In John’s own words: 

"Vincent woke up approximately three times in the night. The first time was about an hour after he had gone to bed. He got up and walked over to the kitchen area to get a glass of water. I asked him if he needed any help, but he said he didn’t. This was the last time which I spoke properly with him. He then went back to bed after getting himself a drink. 

"At around midnight, he woke up for the second time and fell out of bed. I went over to him and helped him get back up into bed. At some point in the early hours of the morning, round about 4 AM or 5 AM, he fell out of bed for a second time. I tried to get him back up onto his bed. Unlike the previous time when he had helped to get himself into bed with my assistance, this time he did not but was sound asleep. I covered him with a duvet and left him to sleep. 

"At around about 6:00 AM, he woke up again and he walked straight over the armchair that was positioned near the dining table and sat down in it. He had seemed half asleep when he did this and straight away went back to sleep once he was on the chair. I asked him if he needed any help, but he did not respond and just fell into a deep sleep. At approximately 10:00 AM, when Vincent was still asleep, I called Chris as I was meant to be going work that morning. Chris said that I should stay to keep an eye on Vincent rather than going to work. So, I stayed with him instead. 

"From time to time during the morning, I tried to wake Vincent, but he wouldn’t talk to me. He would just look at me and then fall asleep again. I just assumed he was very tired and thought it was best to let him rest. At round about 12 noon, I spoke again to Chris. I explained that Vincent had spent the whole time sleeping in the armchair and that I couldn’t get him to wake up and speak to me. Chris said that I should observe Vincent and decide whether to call for an ambulance. 

"I tried to get Vincent to wake up and I tried to help him take his medication. However, he couldn’t take the medication in and I also noticed that saliva was dripping from his mouth. At one stage I wrote on paper “Can I call an ambulance for you?” I was keen to involve him in the decision, but he did not respond. After a while, I realized that I should just go ahead and call the ambulance myself anyway and I also noticed that he had wet himself.

"I understand from the ambulance record for that day that I called for an ambulance at around about 1:50 PM. I said that I had a friend who was critically ill, and I gave the address and postcode. I explained that it was not a care home but a residential place that he was at and they kept asking me questions. The ambulance came very quickly, and I immediately went downstairs. As I got out of the building, the ambulance seemed to be moving away as if it was uncertain as to where it should be going. However, when the ambulance crew saw me, they stopped, and they then got out and followed me upstairs."

The ambulance arrived at 2:01 PM (A0.5) and the crew spent about 40 minutes at the scene. On assessment at 2:03 PM, I had a respiratory rate of 24, heart rate of 115 and blood pressure of 141/95. I was a febrile at 36.6°C with serum glucose of 3.5. The crew was unable to assess my capillary response and my pupils were noted to be full at 4mm, but it was not possible to assess their reactivity. My GCS was low at 11/15. 

John explained to the paramedics that I had not spoken to him all morning. He told them that I called out an ambulance the previous day and he gave them the notes from the previous call out which had been left on the dining table. The paramedics spent some time trying to get me to talk to them, but I couldn’t. They said that they were not sure whether they could take me to hospital because I was not responding and not able to agree to going. They also examined me and made their own assessment of me, but if they touched my arm or leg I would scream and shout in pain. At the same time, there was a lot of saliva coming from my mouth, according to John. 

So basically, on that day, the October 23, 2011, I was admitted to the Accident and Emergency department of St. Peters Hospital Chertsey with:

  • acute confusion,
  • non-responsiveness and Agitation (nystagmus).
  • Body temperature of 39.
  • BP of 175/100
  • Heart rate of 132 per min
  • Respiration of 30 per min
  • Saturations of 89% on air
  • 90% on oxygen

It was a very long 9 months of hospitalization. I have written a very lovely book about all my experience in a book called 'The Diary of a Healed Man'.  This is the summary of my struggle as written in the book.

"In The Diary of the Healed Man, Vincent shared his astonishing life story of his struggles with bacterial meningitis and a whole lot of  complications that came with the sickness like Myositis, Rhabdomyolysis, Acute kidney injury, sepsis, ischaemic contractures of the upper and lower limbs, necroses and amputations of the toes, chronic wound and pain management, vascularitis, bilateral profound sensory-neural deafness, bilateral vestibulopathy, oscillopsia, pericarditis to name but a few complications.

"He was hospitalised for more than 9 months in all, underwent multiple surgeries including reconstructive plastic surgeries with bilateral gracilis muscles, cochlear implant surgeries, necrotic debridement and more, attended more than 300 hundred outpatient appointments, lost his job, car and apartment; lost most of his friends and colleagues and lastly was rehoused in a care home with cerebral palsy patients.

"Through all these, Vincent never allowed what happened to him to define his character and personality. Rather, he believed strongly in the power of positivity. It’s not what happens to us that defines us as human, rather how we respond to what happens to us makes the whole difference. Vincent demonstrated his existential outlook through all his ideals and is determined to use whatever life throws at him to build himself up rather than allowing himself being torn down.

"Whoever you are, whatever your beliefs, Vincent’s story has the power to calm your worries and inspire you to beat the odds in your life. his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full recovery."

This book is available book in eBook and paperback. You can get a copy on Amazon by clicking on this link

Vincent Duru
February 2020

Detailed information about the after effects of meningitis

Mike Davies contracted bacterial meningitis in 2017. This is his story.
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