Meningitis Now
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In the words of Aussie Warbler Natalie

In the words of Aussie Warbler Natalie

Imbruglia, nothing's right I'm torn. Well I'm not necessarily but a cartilage in my left knee is and this somewhat obscure opening is the latest missive from your official 'I'm going to stick two fingers up to viral meningitis by doing long distance triathlons' correspondent. Possibly the worst job title since the invention of the CEO of the German Potato Marketing Board which I am told is officially the longest job title in the world, well in German anyway.

Yes in the desire to say 'up yours' to an illness which nearly killed me I am back in training and have my eyes firmly fixed on August 16th at 7.00 a.m. when I take on my third Half Ironman Triathlon in aid of Meningitis Now. With any luck I will finish the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run sometime before dawn on August the 17th but according to my coach the jury is out on that one since he measures my times with a sundial and my location on the course with a sextant. I have told him I'm willing to help him sue the charm school!

The one thing that being a viral meningitis survivor has taught me, strokes invisible beard in a sage like way, is that in time everything is possible, well not quite everything clearly I can't have babies and I'll never be President of the United States, or a nuclear physicist or a professional triathlete or........Sorry let me re-phrase that. What VM has taught me is that I can do things now that I couldn't do before I had VM none of which include having babies etc. When I think back to 2002 and the immediate aftermath of the illness I actually can't remember anything which makes for a rubbish blog post so I will relay some of the things my family told me. Apparently I looked at my eldest daughter and said 'I know you're my daughter but which one are you'. I couldn't walk properly, I couldn't stay awake for long and I had an overwhelming compulsion to still start the sea based triathlon I was entered in to.

That's what I was like after VM but even before it I don't think I would have ever in my wildest dreams taken on a Half Ironman, a sprint race was an effort and back when I started triathlons in 1990 coming last, which I did on a monotonously regular basis was a source of derision amongst my fellow athletes even the fat bloke wearing a 'Duff Beer' cycling jersey who is still around and still beating me, some things never change. So before I had VM I was fit, I was a triathlete and these things helped to ensure that I didn't go to meet my maker in a cloud of neck stiffness, blinding headache and photophobia. Even if I had have seen a bright light at the end of a tunnel knowing me I would have looked away because it hurt too much. All that said though I was no long distance triathlete and although I had run the occasional half marathon there isn't stopwatch that can count up high enough without turning over to zero again before I finished. I didn't lack ambition I just lacked talent, skill, determination and an overwhelming desire to be in pain for hours on end.

I know I have focused in the past on what VM has done to me (See 'Oh No It's Angry Dad' for more details) but actually you know what I should be thinking what it has allowed me to do since having it. Having had a headache like a <insert name of ball game involving kicking star here> was kicking <insert appropriate type of ball here> in my head at 100mph (sorry I don't work in kph, I have enough trouble working in mph) showed me that you know what actually the pain of a long distance triathlon is nothing in comparison to that. Even though I have fallen off my bike three times in a week on black ice (same side, same place and I ache like I've been kicked by a cart horse) and I have finally been diagnosed with a torn cartilage in my leg I can still do more now than I did in the years leading up to July 13th 2002. I have learned to deal with the limitations that VM has left me with and although I had five years when I couldn't exercise to let the brain injury settle down I have come out stronger, fitter and more determined. So If you are wondering whether the phrase what doesn't kill you makes you stronger applies, well for me yes it does but obviously not if you're hit by a 40 ton truck in which case if you survive then the chances are it won't. If you're a VM survivor though, chances are it will.

2 Replies

That's so awesome. I m so happy to read your posts as I'm 2 years post vm and still wanting to do more. I am prevented recently by migraines but they are settling too. I want to do lots of exercise too and you inspire me to know I can. I'm back on my gym programme and doing it and swimming every day I can. I also want to do ocean races again and am gearing up for it at end of 15. I think that you are on the money about how long it takes to let the brain recover. It can take years. Did you find when you exercised in the first few years that you got headaches and exhaustion etcc?


Sounds like I'm going to have some competition then :-). The key is moderation to be honest and don't do too much too soon. I most certainly did get very tired very quickly and now that I have a coach I realise that you should aim to finish most sessions post VM as if you could have done just a bit more rather than at the ragged edge with a heart lung machine on standby! It was a long slow come back from VM to triathlon and I think it was about 7 years post attack that I actually felt like I could do more and go faster, well what counts for faster with me anyway. I found that there was a lot of inconsistency in my sessions as well, some days I'd feel like I could run for miles and miles and others that I barely had the energy to stagger out the front door. Usual for most people but only a bit more extreme. It was a long time before I was able to 'learn to suffer' as triathletes put it i.e. to be in pain and just keep going as my brain would shut me down way before then. So my advice would be a slow recovery and gently build up again. End of 15 for an ocean race is a good target as I guessing you're younger than me so nice and steady and you'll get there. For me the after effects including a permanent headache are permanent now (my neurologist told me that if they were still present after five years there was a 90% chance that I'm stuck with them) but ironically when I turned the corner so to speak the headaches eased when I exercised rather than got worse. Glad you liked the post and keep up the good work.


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