I was congested, I ached, I was lethargic and I spent most of the week on the sofa under a blanket with my laptop on my knee as I was trying to finish my dissertation. It was so hard to concentrate and focus and as days went on I was not improving. In the past, a few days of Lemsip and rest and although feeling weak, I would have started to improve. This was different however and I was not getting better. In truth, I had no idea what was wrong with me but my instinct was that something was wrong.
I woke on 7 January with the weirdest rash on my midriff, both of my lower arms and with 4 dots on the palm of my left hand. Within ten minutes of waking and making the discovery of the rash I called the Doctor’s surgery and after explaining the prolonged illness and the appearance of a rash I asked for an emergency appointment. The appointment was for 5.20pm. I set an alarm and returned to the sofa. I felt truly hideous and I could not even turn on my laptop. I could not read books and I dozed for the day. I don’t think I even got up for any lunch. My alarm went off and I scrambled off the sofa. I had a bit of an adrenalin rush as I panicked and thought I was going to miss my appointment. I grabbed my car keys and slipped on my shoes. I did not even grab my bag or wallet but dashed off to the next village to the Doctor’s surgery. On arrival, I was sent to the waiting room upstairs.
Now, once again with hindsight, thank heavens I was in the waiting room alone. During the ten minute consultation, I explained that I had been suffering with flu like symptoms and that I had woken up that morning with a really strange rash. The Doctor looked in my throat and felt my glands and asked if the rash was itchy. I said that it was not itchy but weird and that the two larger areas on my inner right arm felt more like a bruise. When the Doctor asked me if my neck was stiff, my alarm bells went off and I asked if she was considering meningitis. In an instant she declared that it was not a meningitis rash and it was most likely caused by an allergic reaction to the cold medication that I had been taking on and off during the previous week. I was sent home with a certificate for University and advised to have bed rest and drink plenty of fluids.
I am sure that everyone who reads this will wonder why I did not stand my ground and demand a more comprehensive consultation but in truth I just felt so awful that I sat there and accepted that as she was the Doctor, she must be right. So, I trundled home and did not really recall the whole drive. I sort of zoned out and was a bit on auto pilot.
I rang my husband from the car whilst sitting in the driveway at home and told him about the advice to go to bed and I asked him to bring me home a can of coke as I was really thirsty. I then went in the door and climbed the stairs. I took my jeans off and got in to bed and that was the last thing I remember. David, my husband, came home at around 6.15 and saw me shivering under the duvet and he thought I was asleep. He put the coke on the bedside table and headed out for a committee meeting. On his return at 9pm he heard a vomiting noise and he rushed upstairs. He found me non responsive, vomiting and retching. He turned me on my side to avoid choking and called an ambulance.
The ambulance arrived at half past 9 but it was a lady on her own so she was only really able to give me oxygen and call for backup. The second ambulance arrived sometime later and at about 11pm they decided that they would give me intravenous antibiotics. The first ambulance lady had noticed a further non blanching rash on my thigh and David had mentioned to her that I had been to see the GP. Due to the layout of my house and bookcases in the hallways they needed to use a special sling to get me out of the house so a third ambulance team were called and I was moved to hospital just before midnight.
On arrival at hospital I had suffered a seizure in the ambulance and was registering 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). My husband was not allowed to travel in the ambulance with me and he was waiting in a room at the hospital whilst doctors assessed me. I was unaware of all of this and although my GCS improved to 6, I was on another planet. My medical notes say that I was clutching at my head and the registrar noted a purpuric rash. My husband had the shock of his life some time later when he was allowed to see me before I was moved to intensive care and I was wired up to a life support machine.