World Meningitis Day 2021: Rebecca's Story

23 Apr 2021
World Meningitis Day 2021: Rebecca's Story
West Hampstead resident Rebecca Jones Leslie, 50, is urging greater awareness of the signs of deadly meningitis after surviving the disease in May 2019. Rebecca is supporting World Meningitis Day (April 24th 2021), raising awareness of meningitis and its life-altering consequences to encourage action to defeat the disease.

Cardiff-born Rebecca had been suffering from an ear infection and working long hours when she became seriously ill. “I had the worst headache,” she said, “Like someone was driving nails into my head. I couldn’t look at the light, I was retching, vomiting, sweating, delirious. I could hardly move.”

A close friend of Rebecca’s had, three years earlier, lost her life to sepsis after going to bed feeling unwell and never recovering. This prompted Rebecca to insist she be taken to hospital.

She said: “When the paramedics arrived, they said I should just call the doctor in the morning. I said I wouldn’t be able do that, because I would be dead. I knew that I was dying.”

Rebecca was taken to St Marys Hospital, Paddington. Doctors spotted purple marks appearing on her legs – a sign of blood poisoning, also known as septicaemia (sepsis), which can be caused by meningitis. Husband James Leslie, 54, was told to leave the room.
“I was screaming in pain,” she said. “The doctors immediately knew my limbs and organs were shutting down due to sepsis, so began treating me with antibiotics and steroids immediately.”

Rebecca endured a lumbar puncture which confirmed that she had contracted bacterial meningitis, and was moved to the infectious unit of St Marys. “I had no idea what meningitis was,” remembers Rebecca. “I thought it was something that only happened to babies.”

[pictured: Rebecca and her husband.]
Rebecca remained in hospital for 17 days, during which time she suffered hallucination and an allergic reaction to penicillin.

“The after-effects of meningitis and septicaemia can be life changing,” says Rob Dawson, Director of Communications, Advocacy & Support at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF). “1 in 10 that contract meningitis will sadly die, but around a third of survivors are left with after-effects that can include limb loss, brain damage, deafness, scarring and much more. This World Meningitis Day we are very grateful to Rebecca for raising awareness of the devastating impact meningitis can have, even for survivors. We encourage everyone to take action to defeat meningitis this World Meningitis Day by visiting to learn more.”
World Meningitis Day 2021
World Meningitis Day 2021
Take action. Defeat meningitis.
Rebecca has continued to suffer anxiety, agoraphobia, speech problems, band headaches and fatigue since leaving hospital, and has been unable to return to work as a Global Payroll Manager in the City of London. She said: “Because I look fine, people expect me to be fine – but I’m not. My mental health has been badly affected, and I’ve had to sort out my own recovery programme through private medical healthcare."

[pictured: Rebecca during her stay in hospital.]
"Fortunately, this was part of my employment benefits – CBT, Talkabout Speech Therapy, and psychiatric help. I have had a huge amount of support from my GP who has guided me through my recovery period.   

“When I hear about people dying of meningitis, I feel very lucky to have survived and fortunate I have had private healthcare. No one can tell me when or even if I will fully recover, it’s an individual journey of recovery, so I just take it day by day.”
Cuts to research funding mean your support is needed more than ever to bring a world free from meningitis one step closer.
“Before I fell ill I didn’t even know adults could get meningitis. I thought it was just something babies got."
How much meningitis is there where you live?
The WHO have endorsed the Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. We need you to encourage global governments to act on it.
Defeating Meningitis by 2030: A Global Roadmap
Defeating Meningitis by 2030: A Global Roadmap
Holly Edwards
Senior Communications, Advocacy & Support Officer

Hi, I'm Holly. I look after this area of work for MRF, so if there's anything more you'd like to know, get in touch.

Tel: 07875498047
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