The morning of 19 April 2001 was no different to any other. I was a 20 year old student on Easter holidays from college and enjoying spending time with my relations who were visiting from America.
Around 6pm that evening I felt a migraine coming on – or at least that’s what I thought it was. The headache persisted even after I lay down and rested for a while. It was not uncommon for me to suffer from migraine, so the symptoms were not unusual until I started vomiting and felt really weak.
My relations reassured me it was no more than a 24 hour bug as they had recovered from it a few days earlier.
Around 4am, I started to feel much worse and I asked Mum to come downstairs to the bathroom with me as I felt weak. My brother was already there with my Dad by his side, as he was also vomiting. I recall us laughing and joking that we both had the bug. We had no reason to be alarmed at this stage, as it seemed obvious we had caught the vomiting bug.
I can recall my neck felt very stiff, but I assumed it was from having my head over the bed getting sick. There was a digital clock beside my bed and the minutes felt like hours as the night slowly passed. The headache was so strong I couldn’t bear it any longer. I called my mum and asked her what time does the doctor surgery open?
She knew at this stage something was seriously wrong, as it was out of character for me to look for the doctor. She called the local GP, who advised her to take me straight into her. When Mum returned to the room, she found me disorientated, vomiting and very stiff.
She called my dad straight away in a panic. I remember my dad carrying me downstairs. I was very weak and worried I would fall. He reassured me he wouldn’t let me fall and I would be OK.
As I was in and out of consciousness, I don’t have much recollection of what happened from that point on. The GP sent me straight to A&E, where I was met by the medical team and administered penicillin straight away.
The following few hours were critical, as the medical team worked very hard to diagnose my condition. After a series of tests and scans, it was confirmed that I had Meningitis, later confirmed to be Meningococcal Meningitis.
The antibiotics were beginning to work and I started to come back to myself around 1pm. When I saw the nurse gowning up with gloves, mask and apron, I assumed this was normal practise as I had never been in hospital before. She told me not to be worried that this was the procedure due to me having such a contagious type of meningitis.
This was the first I learned of my condition. I was quite surprised, as I had the MeningiteC Vaccine 11 days previous on 7 April. I did not realise at the time that there are different types and strains of meningitis. I had only been vaccinated against one type. Research has proven that the vaccine may not prevent all types of meningitis, but it can prevent major side effects.
The symptoms I presented with were an excruciating headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sensitivity to bright lights. There was no sign of a rash at any stage. This is one of the key things people look out for. It is only for the quick thinking of my family and the efficiency of the medical team that I am here today.
I would appeal to everyone to make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. It can happen to anyone, from babies and teenagers to older people.
Awareness is so important for other people to understand the impact meningitis can have on people’s lives. In order to help inform people, I have volunteered with ACT for Meningitis, which is a charity set up by Noel and Siobhán Carroll after losing their beautiful daughter Aoibhe to meningitis in 2008. The aim of the charity is to create awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and help people affected by the illness.