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Case Study Issue 110: Recovery from Life-Threatening Meningitis

by Maria D\'Silva(more info)

listed in infections, originally published in issue 110 - April 2005

I Nearly Died From Meningitis

I remember coming round in a hospital bed and thinking where the hell am I! My family and boyfriend were all there looking down at me and they just looked like a mirage of faces. I actually thought I was dreaming.

It was then that I found out that I had caught a strain of bacterial meningitis. I remember feeling unwell, my joints had all seized up but I had taken strong painkillers and the pain had eased off. I even remember getting ready to go to the doctor but after that it is just a blank. It is the strangest feeling to know that a couple of days of my life are completely lost to me and I have only my family to tell me what happened.

I started fitting at home and was rushed straight into intensive care at the Queen Elizabeth NHS hospital in Woolwich where I was given last rites, as the doctors did not know if I was going to pull through or not. I did not have any obvious symptoms of meningitis and so, as a precaution, the doctor put me on a number of antibiotics, and the nurses had to give continual injections to calm me down as I was pulling at all the tubes. A nurse remained by my side in the high dependency unit to monitor and record my movements; thankfully, I reacted well to the antibiotics and came round a day and a half later. I was later told that I was very lucky to be alive and that passing out had saved my life as it enabled them to catch the virus in time. If I had gone into the emergency department I would have been made to wait and by then it could have been too late to help me.

I was kept on antibiotics for a week to be on the safe side and was then moved to a ward. My vision was blurred, I was only partly conscious and everything was spinning. I was very weak; it felt like someone had drained all the energy from my body. My balance had completely gone and it was a real shock to see myself in the mirror as my eyes were crossed! My mouth was full of ulcers, mainly due to the tubes that had been inserted, and I was unable to speak and eat properly for a week. After a course of cordosyl mouthwash and pomegranates, that my mother brought in especially, this soon healed. I was referred to the neurologist and he told me that I had suffered a slight stroke as a result of my brain being starved from oxygen momentarily, when I originally passed out. This took me completely by surprise. He then told me the good news, it was very minor and the side effects would pass very soon. Despite it all, I remained positive as the worst was over and so I took control and began my recovery.

I started having physiotherapy lessons to help me move around better. It was really infuriating, at first, when I was not able to do the simplest activities. I persevered and gradually progressed from taking a few steps, whilst holding onto bars, to riding an exercise bike.

My tenacity paid off and I was finally allowed home. I was no longer on any medication, except for a two week prescription of aspirin as a precaution for the stroke. My family and my boyfriend were wonderful and I could not have got through it without their encouragement and support. I made fantastic progress physically but emotionally it was another story. I can recall lying on my hospital bed wondering why I was alive. It would then come to visiting time and I could see the heartache and tears welling up inside my family and I realized that I was truly loved and cherished.

I returned to work mid-February on a temporary basis, although it has taken the best part of the year to fully recover. I still can't fully comprehend how quickly I deteriorated; after all, you never expect it to happen to you. I nearly didn't get the chance to tell those closest to me how much I thought of them. This has always been one of my greatest fears and is why I immediately wrote cards expressing my feelings to my family and my partner and made them keep them safe.

One thing I have learnt is that the old saying "You don't know what's round the corner" is so true. I can honestly say that I do not take anything for granted now. My partner and I have just bought our first house together, which is a great achievement after such a tough start to the year. I am a firm believer that, regardless of what life throws at you, if you really believe in yourself and remain positive, you will achieve your dreams. We tend to forget that the greatest gift we are all given is life itself – so make the most of it!

About the Practitioner and Treatment

Admitted: December 28, 2003, Intensive Care/High Dependency Unit, Queen Elizabeth NHS Hospital, London SE18 4QH
Attending Physician: Dr Leball
Diagnosis: Meningitis, Cerebellar Infaret
Treatment: Antibiotics, aspirin daily, nystatin, a week's supply of cordosyl mouthwash; Physiotherapy lessons for two hours each day.
Results: Intensive care – after doses of antibiotics stopped the fitting and came out of coma. Improved vision, balance and co-ordination over the next fortnight.

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About Maria D\'Silva

Maria D'Silva turned 27 in November 2004. It was a life-changing year, where she came to terms with her greatest fear and completely changed her outlook on life. She is now overcoming a serious illness and returning to good health. She has recently bought her first house in Chessington, Surrey, with her partner, who has been her rock, inspiration, soul mate and best friend for the past six years and to whom she dedicates this article. Maria can be contacted at mtlnsilva@yahoo.co.uk

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