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Alexandria Frenkel

England Viral Young Adult 20-25 Full Recovery
Alexandria Frenkel

At the end of my third year in university, I was 22 years old. I was in a rigorous and demanding specialised program that consumed all of my time – classes from 8am to 6pm, rehearsals from 7pm to 11pm, homework after that. I had started to feel ill around March. But as many times as I went to the health clinic on campus, they could not find a cause. It was not mono, it was not strep, it was not bronchitis. As my symptoms stacked up from body aches and exhaustion to migraines and nausea, I refused to slow down. I was on my way to achieving a perfect grade point average that semester and was also on my way to a prestigious internship that summer. I would not let anything get in my way.

The day my father picked me up to go home for the summer, the first words out of his mouth were ‘You look horrible’. He was right. I was pale and dehydrated with dark bags under my eyes, and I had begun to lose weight. But no matter – my internship was scheduled to start two days later.

"I was afraid to fall asleep ... I was convinced I would die in the night"

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.

ALEXANDRIA FRENKEL
MAY 2012

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