My father wanted to prohibit me from going, but how could he stop a 22 year old from doing what they want? I agreed to go to the doctor but only if they could see me immediately, and only if I was to be finished in time to catch a train to the city for my first day of the internship. I went and was out by 8am after blood work showed nothing. No explanation, no cause. That day at work I was just trying to survive. I got home at 8pm and immediately went to bed, my brain screaming at me and my body exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep. Around midnight I crawled up the stairs to my father’s room and attempted to tell him to take me to the hospital. Instead I vomited.
I was admitted immediately and was there for two weeks. I couldn’t eat or drink and even the suggestion of food was enough to make me vomit bile. I was on constant pain medication, but to no avail. I was still in agony. I was afraid to fall asleep because I was convinced I would die in the night. I would accidentally nod off and wake to find my father in a chair reading a book; he sat vigil by my bedside every day I was there. My sister took leave from the military and flew home immediately.
My 23rd birthday was one of the early days in the hospital, and the day they did the spinal tap to confirm my diagnosis. Happy birthday to me. The doctors and nurses were amazing and doing their best to help me stay comfortable and get better as quickly as possible.
When I was released two weeks later, I slept all of the time. I had dropped nearly 20 pounds, but was slowly able to eat crackers and broth. The company had thankfully held my internship for me, and I was able to go back several weeks later and get full credit. I started school in August and was still feeling the effects of the meningitis; exhaustion and headaches had become the norm. I joked with my history professor about writing a term paper on Antonin Artaud – a famous sufferer of meningitis – while I too suffered from the sickness.
It’s been four years since the ordeal and I’ve recovered fully, save for some memory issues that I try and curb with puzzles and games. I feel fortunate, because others weren’t so lucky. Today I still push myself to exceed expectations of myself, to work harder to accomplish my goals. But I now know my limits and will never, ever, ever let myself get that sick again for fear of reliving that nightmare.