Shropshire student who survived meningitis last Christmas is raising awareness

20 Dec 2018
Shropshire student who survived meningitis last Christmas is raising awareness

Cases of meningitis and septicaemia/sepsis are expected to rise over the winter months and Christmas is often peak season for the disease.

20 year old Alicia Aston-Maxwell from Telford contracted meningococcal meningitis last Christmas and is sharing her story to raise awareness.

She explains, “I’d had a cough and cold for weeks before coming home for Christmas after my first term at Keele University. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are a bit of a blur but I remember not feeling excited, just feeling weak and tired and wasn’t really eating much. Both days I had a bath because I felt so cold.

"When I woke up on December 27th, that's when I knew something was very wrong. I had a splitting headache and I could hardly move."

“When I woke up on December 27th, that's when I knew something was very wrong. I had a splitting headache and I could hardly move. Mum took me to the doctors but I was unable to walk without help, I couldn’t physically hold a pen to fill in the temporary registration form, couldn’t sit up straight on a chair and I couldn't really speak to the doctor. The doctor did some tests and she was extremely concerned so I was admitted to hospital.

“My dad took me straight there and I remember being put into a wheelchair and wheeled off for a CT scan. It all happened very quickly. Then I remember lying in a bed somewhere screaming because the lights were too bright and the beeping of machines were hurting my ears. Then I just black out.

“I was sedated for the next 3-4 days and all I remember from that time is screaming 'NO, not a lumbar puncture'. I’m told I was in a state, kicking out, pulling my cannulas out of my hands. I kicked my dad in the face at one point and another time it took six nurses to restrain me. I must have been very distressed.

“I don't remember being given treatment with antibiotics but I’m told I was lucky this treatment was started quickly, before my diagnosis was even confirmed as meningitis, and before the rash developed.

“My family and closest friends were so worried and didn't know if I was going to wake up. Even now, I don't really remember when I did wake up and don’t remember most of the conversations I’m told I had with people in the days afterwards. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and was obsessed with watching the film Elf.

“Seven days after being admitted I was well enough to go home. The doctors said I had made a miraculous recovery.

“Although there haven't been many visible side effects, I was later diagnosed with chronic headaches and migraines. I am currently on medication for this. My coordination still isn’t good and my left side of my body is much weaker than my right making it difficult to play sport. For a while I developed a stutter and was just unable to speak properly.

“I did go back to uni later in the year but because of how much I had missed and how I was my I was struggling to concentrate I decided to defer and restarted my first year again this September.
 

“I don't actually remember what it feels like to be 'normal'"

“I don't actually remember what it feels like to be 'normal'. I don't remember how I was pre-meningitis but I just feel happy to be alive and have all my limbs.”

On average in England there are over three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (meningococcal) in January compared with September.

This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to co-infection with flu virus, and because the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity. Viral infections like the common cold may also help spread the infection.

While babies and young children are most at-risk of meningitis and septicaemia, teenagers and young adults are the next most at-risk group.

The meningococcal bacteria that can cause deadly meningitis and septicaemia are most commonly found living harmlessly in the noses and throats of teenagers and young adults and they can be spread to others. First year university students are particularly at risk as they mix with so many other young people.

The vast majority of people who come into contact with the bacteria do not become unwell or develop any symptoms but occasionally the bacteria invade the body and cause serious illness.

Most young adults aged between 14 and 22 are eligible to get the MenACWY protecting against four deadly types of meningococcal disease, but uptake has not been very high in the upper end of this age group. First year university students up to the age of 25 are also eligible. It’s easy for anyone to check their eligibility for this free vaccine at: www.meningitis.org/oneshot

Linda Glennie, Director of Research at MRF said, “It’s even more important at this time of year for people to be aware of the symptoms and make sure children are up to date with their vaccinations and that young people who are eligible for MenACWY vaccination get it as soon as possible.”

One life. One shot

One life. One shot

Getting young people across the UK to take up the free MenACWY vaccine to combat a rapid rise in a deadly strain of meningitis
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