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Ben Proctor

England Meningococcal Teenager Full Recovery
Ben Proctor

It was August 2004, I was 15 and had just started work as a lifeguard at a local holiday park. I would have said I was the 'healthiest' person I knew, running at least 5 times a week and being one of the top athletes in Yorkshire at the time.

I'd had a bit of a cold, nothing too major. But then one day I suddenly felt a lot worse. Every so often lights would hurt my eyes and my vision would go blurry, as if I had stood up too quickly. My teeth began chattering and I couldn't really talk – I felt shivery yet hot. The doctor was called and after a quick check-up she decided it was probably flu but did say to be wary as the issue with the lights is a tell-tale sign of meningitis.

I woke up around 4am the next day with the worst headache I could ever imagine – nothing would stop the pain. A few hours later the vomiting started. That's where it goes blank. Speaking to my Dad he said I lost the ability to speak, my eyes glazed over and I was rushed straight to hospital (despite furiously trying to fight off the paramedics).

"Thinking back now, I just felt numb. I wasn't in any state to realise the magnitude of the situation and it took me some time to really take stock of how ill I had been."

Fast forward a few days and I woke up in intensive care, well aware of where I was (which I must have picked up from people talking to me whilst I was in an induced coma). I've felt better; my body ached everywhere and I felt weak. The infamous rash was starting to wear off – it was probably the last symptom I developed. I had no memory of what had happened but from speaking to family members I now know I was rushed to hospital, and after the doctors realised the seriousness of my condition I was transferred to a larger hospital and immediately placed in an induced coma. The doctors had estimated my chances of survival at 20%. I was later told by one doctor he actually thought my chances were closer to zero. It was later confirmed that I had contracted meningitis A, B and W along with septicemia.

Thinking back now, I just felt numb. I wasn't in any state to realise the magnitude of the situation and it took me some time to really take stock of how ill I had been.

I was transferred back to the local hospital and after two weeks of intensive treatment I was discharged – I'd lost around 5 stone, had double vision (my eyes were so tired they constantly twitched), was unable to speak due to the intubation irritating my vocal chords and I still had a tingling sensation at the top of my spinal cord. But I was lucky, I hadn't lost any limbs and I had survived – now I just wanted to forget about it. Unfortunately my body had other ideas.

"Throughout my illness and afterwards, the Meningitis Research Foundation were there to explain things and support my parents"

As I went back to school I found myself irritable, I'd snap at others and would constantly feel low and that people blamed me for being ill. One evening I just broke down, I felt terrible and I had no idea why. I visited the doctor with my parents and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. After a time it wore off and I came to terms with what had happened to me. I began to realise just how lucky I was and to focus on the future, not on what had happened.

Throughout my illness and afterwards, the Meningitis Research Foundation were there to explain things and support my parents – an open ear whenever they were confused or worried. In 2014, ten years after my illness, I plucked up the courage to raise money for the Foundation by skydiving, and followed this up by participating in the Great North Run last year. The Foundation really does make a difference; even to me, someone who did not have any life changing long term effects.

BEN PROCTOR
FEBRUARY 2016

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