Pneumococcal Meningitis? What should we expect?


I don't know if I will find the answers I am looking for on this forum, but I am hoping it could shed some insight and relieve some of our anxiety.

Almost one week ago my boyfriend and I found his flatmate unresponsive and thrashing uncontrollably on his bedroom floor. My boyfriend called an ambulance and I did what I could to assist my friend to avoid hitting himself on furniture by placing cushions around him and moving furniture . We both tried to move him into the recovery position, however he is a large man and his constant movement prevented anything.

Previous to this our friend had had a sinus infection which always causes him an ear infection, the doctors now believe an ear infection and two perforated ear drums is how the bacteria has entered his spinal fluid and travelled to his brain.

The ambulance took forty long minutes to arrive and attend to our friend, we felt hopeless and didn't realise the severity of what what happening. After another ambulance arrived we began to realise how serious this was. Following the ambulance to the ED we were told things were very serious and he had been placed in an induced coma. At this point I had to leave my boyfriend to call our friends parents as I had to attend my shift in the same hospital - I am a nurse.

I haven't been into ICU to see my friend, he is still unconscious and his temperature remains in the high 30's (was 41.7 ambo's arrived at home). Information given to us by the family says that they have detected a left sided deficit but unsure of the cause and they were awaiting a CT with contrast to try and determine this. He is also beginning to respond to verbal stimuli and has had a number of seizures.

I have been researching the internet to try and get a better understanding of what we are dealing with, is there anyone out there that has experienced this that could offer information and/or advice?

Thank you,


6 Replies

  • Gosh what a terrifying experience for you and your boyfriend. I had an ear infection that the infection crossed the blood brain barrier and became bacterial meningitis. I was virtually unconscious on arrival at A&E where I was then sedated and put on life support. This enable the body to put all its energies into fighting the infection. My coma was 3 weeks. My friends were encouraged to visit me and to sit and talk to me as sometimes people in a coma can still hear. So do try and visit your friend. It is early days and the doctors will usually give the 'worse case scenario' outcome. My friends were told that the odds were that I wouldn't survive or be severely mentally/physically disabled ... but I defied the odds! I do have some long term problems but experienced significant recovery too. The fact that he has begun to respond to verbal stimuli is a positive sign.

  • Hi Alice

    I know how scary this situation is as my husband experienced something similar in April with an ear infection leading to bacterial meningitis and sepsis. We were warned that he might not live or possibly not make a full recovery but 5 months on he just about has.

    Of course every case will be different but I have no doubt that family or friend support is very important to recovery. The medical team in hospital were marvellous but have not got the time to sit and stimulate and work with a patient individually.

    Whilst my husband was unconscious we played music and talked to him ,although not knowing if he could hear. Once he started to come round we took in photos of familiar things, past holidays etc. We took in get well cards he had received and played visual nature clips on an Ipad. As his hearing was affected we used a white board to communicate with him trying to reassure him of where he was and what was happening.

    Once he could hear a bit we played favourite music. We gradually got him playing word games and puzzles and got him reading and writing again bit by bit. We wheeled him outside and to the cafe to get him used to normal life again and helped with his physio.

    After being fed by a tube for three weeks he found eating a problem and we took in things to tempt him and initially made sure we were there at mealtimes to encourage him to eat.

    Initially, after the first few traumatic weeks, doctors thought he would need about another 2 to 3 months in hospital rehab but , because he made such good progress , and I think because we were doing so much with him , he was home only 7 weeks after he took ill.

    5 months on he can do most things and is pretty independent now. He still suffers from fatigue and occasional memory loss and confusion but nothing too serious.

    I hope your friend makes good progress but do encourage people to spend time with him stimulating his brain and encouraging him as I really think it helps

  • Hi Alice, thank goodness you arrived when you did. Sounds like this man is young and most young people recover from BM. It is very important for everyone to spread the word about how serious ear infections can become. BM is extremely serious and fatal in the elderly and young children and infants. Had your friend been taking antibiotics for the ear infection? I'm not sure if people in an induced coma can hear and are 'present' to the goings on around them. Most people who have been placed in one will tell you that they can't remember anything of that particular time, and in my experience Dr's will often talk over patient beds, even providing negative information which makes me believe that they don't think patients can understand, however it can be very therapeutic for patient family and friends to chat to the patient as it is a very stressful time for all. Make sure the CT scan is done promptly. This is critical for dr's to examine if the brain swelling is under control. All the very best.

  • Thank you all for replying to my post! I was woken by my partner this morning excitedly telling me he had received a message from our friends mother who said he has come out of the coma and is now breathing on his own. Although he is confused and groggy he has been able to communicate a little (even making jokes!), he has left sided paralysis (which he doesn't seem to be aware of) and the doctors are running more tests to work out why this is, as they have been unable to pinpoint it. My partner and I visited him this afternoon, and he recognized us straight away even lifting his right arm and waving, his affect was very flat though which concerned me. He made small talk and mentioned the cards that people had brought in and that his brother had flown from interstate. He wasn't sure why he was in hospital and seemed a bit 'vacant' and grumpy. I don't know whether to put this down to sedation or damage. Time will tell, but we are walking on air that he has woken.

  • If he hasn't already had a brain MRI, he needs one. I was found to have an abscess develop on my left frontal lobe while I was unconscious, which led to some right side paralysis. At first, the doctors believed that I had suffered a stroke, which was not the case. The abscess resolved after 12 weeks of heavy duty iv antibiotics. The right sided weakness gradually disappeared. I did have to go through OT and PT to regain strength, speech, etc.

  • Hello, yes he has had an MRI to rule out an abscess - He is having an EEG today, hopefully it reveals something treatable.

You may also like...