Meningitis – Trust your Instincts
This week marks the annual return of Meningitis Awareness Week helping to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly disease, ensuring families have access to prevention and treatment and to help to defeat meningitis. The event is supported by Meningitis Now and The Meningitis Research Foundation as their groups aim to eradicate meningitis.
Meningitis affects more than 1 million people worldwide each year and can affect people of all ages. It can cause death within 24 hours and leads to life changing injuries.
We were touched by a story of Andy, who contracted a deadly strain of meningitis at the age of 32.
It started off as a normal October morning, he was shopping with his family when he suddenly became acutely unwell. His wife struggled to transport him home, and so concerned the GP was contacted. Not speaking to their usual family doctor, they were advised it was most likely flu and he remained in bed for the rest of the day. It became clear that his condition continued to deteriorate, and the family GP was contacted.
By this stage, Andy could not stand the light, had a crippling headache, and could barely move. The GP suggested that he had all the red flags of meningitis and an ambulance was called immediately. Upon arrival, the paramedics warned he was critically unwell and may not make the trip to hospital, which is a memory his then 7-year-old daughter will not forget.
He was transferred straight to the Infectious Disease Ward and was assessed by a Junior Doctor. He was told he had suspected gastroenteritis and prepared for discharge. The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations message to Trust your Instinct is so powerful, and the family insisted that further tests needed to be performed. This was eventually agreed, and following blood tests and a lumbar puncture, 10 minutes later he became an emergency case and was transferred to Intensive Care for life saving treatment.
Andy was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Meningitis, which is more commonly known as Meningitis B. By this stage he had a purple rash over his legs, his arms, nose, ears, and eyes. The family were warned his prognosis was extremely poor. The sepsis was advanced, and his legs were marked for amputation.
Following his diagnosis, lifesaving treatment led to an exceptional recovery despite a very turbulent period of care, where he was resuscitated on numerous occasions. Thankfully, Andy survived with all his limbs.
However, he has been left with daily challenges suffering from debilitating headaches and nose bleeds which take several weeks to recover from and has suffered a number of brain haemorrhages due to the damage caused to his brain. Andy suffers from short term memory loss, hearing loss and has restricted use of his right leg and ankle due to damage to the muscles and ligaments. He has extensive scarring on his legs and elbows and following the five stomach ulcers, has become intolerant to a wide range of food.
The care afforded in this case is a classic example of the importance of trusting your instincts, as a delay in diagnosis in meningitis, of even 20 minutes, can have a profound impact on the chance of survival or recovery. Whilst in this case, Andy was extremely lucky to survive albeit he suffered life changing injuries, meningitis and septicaemia can strike quickly, and kill within hours. Meningitis Now, the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Confederation of Meningitis Organisation provide support to families who are affected by the diagnosis and are a charity we all support both personally and firm wide here at Wolferstans. Advice and support can be found online on Twitter @MeningitisNow, @M_R_F and @COMOmeningitis.
Helena Campbell in our medical negligence department has recently become an ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation and will also provide support as a befriender, helping families through all stages following the diagnosis of Meningitis. If you would like further support and have been affected by meningitis please contact firstname.lastname@example.org