The first part of this two part blog, I talk about my experience and how I'm now committed to making others aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
I want to share you our story, not only to those affected directly and indirectly with viral meningitis but to all others, to help raise awareness and to help all others.
Our experience was through severe viral meningitis. We all have different strains of viral meningitis and differ in symptoms and after effects. What has become apparent to me since my own experience is there are definite similarities.
By sharing our experiences we can increase our knowledge to improve and educate and aid our own experiences and recovery, but to also make aware to others that there are steps we can take to help prevent this horrendous disease from affecting others. This applies to all types of meningitis.
This story is based on my personal experience and also the experience of my partner Pamela who also had the most traumatic time.
It started with a headache
My experience started at 5.00am on the 9th February 2012, I woke with the most horrendous of headaches. Having suffered from migraines throughout my childhood and into my teens, I knew what bad headaches were. This was different but I didn't know why it was different. My partner was also awake at the time caring for our youngest daughter who was suffering with a cough and cold at the time. I complained about how bad I was feeing but said that after taking a couple of painkillers I would be ok.
As the morning went on I begin to vomit, the pain in my head increased. I grew weaker by the minute and any light became unbearable. I still believed that the painkillers would kick in soon! Fortunately, my partner had a doctor's appointment with our daughter. She informed the doctor of my situation and within 15 minutes he was at my home. Within two minutes he had called the hospital. Within a further 15 minutes I was admitted. My doctor knew the signs and symptoms and I cannot thank him enough. I know other professionals have struggled to identify these but I had one that knew what he was doing.
So I was admitted to hospital with suspected meningitis. After having treatment for bacterial meningitis over nine days, including drip after drip and lumber puncture the outcome was a severe bout of viral meningitis.
What I hadn’t been aware of until after I had been released from hospital was that after my second night in hospital my partner had been told that the staff had not expected me to make it through the night.
The affect this had on my partner let alone me was devastating. The after-effects have been very strong, ranging from bad head and neck spasms, blurred vision and degradation in eyesight, lack of concentration and memory loss and severe fatigue amongst others.
The road to recovery
Prior to contracting meningitis I was very active at both work and socially (regular runner). I found that as time went on I had very little energy, was constantly out of breath and struggled to walk even the shortest of distances. This caused me to become depressed in myself. Knowing how active I was to becoming someone who struggled to get out of the door was very difficult to handle. I had numerous discussions with my GP about this and although very sympathetic informed me to continue resting and that eventually I would get back to being myself again.
Following a visit a few months ago from a medical consultant who went into great detail about my past, right back to leaving school, through my work history, right up to the point of contracting meningitis, he informed me in his belief, my body had had enough, was exhausted and unfortunately meningitis was the outcome. He continued to inform me that the after effects would heal, however, I would need to change my lifestyle considerably. It is great to have the physical aspect back to normal but also he said you have to have the mental attitudes back to normal too.
With this advice he recommended what is known as "Human Givens Therapy" Their website is hgi.org.uk. I have had a few sessions of this and although it doesn't help with recovering my memory issues, eyesight and neck pains it has helped me through deep relaxation techniques to overcome frustrations that occur.
However, How could I turn such a negative into such a positive?
The most positive outcome for me since being diagnosed with meningitis is that I discovered the Meningitis Trust. I have a completely new outlook on life, one where I want and need to help people that have directly and indirectly suffered with this horrendous disease. They are truly incredible, amazing and supportive people. I have discovered not only what they have offered me, but what they have offered and offer so many others.
My recovery has been enhanced incredibly since my involvement with the Trust. I am an active volunteer and have recently been given the Volunteer Team Leader role for Warwickshire. The joy, the reward and the pride it gives me to represent the Trust I struggle to put into strong enough words. My first assignment was being a volunteer at a Trust Family Day in Godmanchester. The Trust for made this a day that will be remembered forever and gave those people so badly affected by the disease a day they thoroughly loved and where they will still be counting down the days for the next one to arrive.
The day filled me with the most immense emotions and joy. It also filled me with pride that I cannot explain. To wear the yellow shirt of the Trust knowing I was making a difference gives me a pride that will stay with me and live with me forever.
I have discovered the most amazing family and one that has a sole intention of helping people. Helping people who have been affected directly, their family and their friends. The Trust has full time staff, 100's of volunteers and thousands of followers. Many who have experienced this disease first hand and want to help their own recovery but also want to help everyone else. It truly is an incredible family.
Looking ahead in 2013
I have also recently been give a place to run London Marathon in 2013 for the Trust. This is a massive honour for me to represent the charity that is so very close to my heart and it also gives me a massive personal goal to aim for. Through setting my sights on such a big achievement, this has forced me into more exercise and although amazingly tough at times has increased my energy levels immensely. I still get bouts of severe tiredness but I have learnt when to rest and my fantastic family and friends have known when to let me rest!
I still have severe short-term memory issues along with some of the others I mentioned earlier. Only this week walking out of the kitchen and immediately forgetting what I was cooking! Just one example of an issue that hits me regularly.
However, with everything I am looking to achieve and currently doing with my work for the Meningitis Trust my brain is becoming more and more active and this is so important to keep developing alongside the body fatigue we experience. I really cannot thank enough the Trust for helping me and supporting me and having real faith in what I am trying to achieve.
Since my time with the Trust, my family and I have formed many very close relationships with both members of the Trust themselves but also their volunteers and followers. They are all truly amazing people.
From a recovery point of view for my own experience and for others, this varies immensely but all I can say is we are not alone and that the after-effects are known by others who can support you. I have not been able to go back to my previous employment yet and who knows when I will. I am however, focusing on what I love and what I want and need to do - supporting others through my work with the Meningitis Trust.
I hope this story helps and maybe inspires others as I have myself been inspired.
I can be followed on Twitter @WarwickCastleDH where you or anyone else can contact me and or direct mail me.
Should anyone wish to donate to my fundraising site for the London2013 marathon in support of the Meningitis Trust then please visit bit.ly/Wtxh27
Please read part 2 of this story which focuses on my partner Pamela and her experience throughout.
Very best regards to everyone