Tania, The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand
I contracted meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia C when I was 40 years old.
I woke early one morning with intense pain in my lower back. It was preventing me from sleeping. I told myself it was just back pain from working long office hours, took some Panadol and tried to go back to sleep.
I struggled through that morning, driving myself to a group meeting I had planned at university (something I now cannot remember). But the pain wasn’t going away. Knowing something wasn’t right, I drove myself to the doctor around lunchtime.
I had read about meningitis in various papers and articles but they had highlighted neck pain, light sensitivity, and the vulnerability of babies and young people. As I didn’t have those symptoms and did not fit the demographic, the thought that I could have meningitis did not enter my mind. Instead I thought it was something to do with my ovaries, as the pain seemed to be localised in my lower back and abdomen.
Seeing that I was in severe pain, but not knowing why, my GP called the National Women’s Hospital, asking them to admit me and conduct some tests. I was admitted around 1pm and after some preliminary tests (confirming the problem was not my ovaries), they kept me in for observation.
Initial damage was evident – physical, mental and emotional. I was confined to a wheelchair for some time, then had to strengthen my legs to walk again. Healing took a long time, and even now I bear many scars.
Not only was this a horrific disease that was intent on killing me, but it was also an extremely traumatic experience for my family, who had little knowledge of meningitis. Timely medical intervention, my strong will to live and the love of my family helped me survive.
Meningitis is a truly horrific disease, the pain is unbearable and the consequences, if you survive, will be life-long. I am only grateful that it was me and not my children or any other family members that had the disease. I have had my children vaccinated because, like wearing a seatbelt gives you no guarantee that someone won’t crash into you, at least having a belt on will give you a better chance of survival.
Unfortunately, there is still limited awareness of the disease and the early identification of symptoms. It’s certainly now in my broader family’s consciousness, and they all have a greater awareness of the severity of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia and how quickly victims can deteriorate. They now keep a close eye on each other and their children if they are ill – looking out for signs and symptoms of meningitis.
I would say to families, siblings, parents, children and friends – stay informed about meningitis – stay aware and alert!
Tania volunteers for The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand in Auckland, New Zealand.
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