Meningitis is one of the scariest words to hear as a parent. Which is probably why I didn’t really react when I heard it. The doctor was after all referring to me, not to one of my children.
I’m a bit ahead of myself, so I’ll start at the beginning.
It was a few Tuesdays ago, and as usual, my son woke up before the (bloody) sunshine. Looking for positives in the situation, I dragged myself out of my pit and drove to the gym where I waited outside for it to open like a muppet. My workout that morning was harder than usual, and when I got home I complained to my husband about a headache before I took the dogs out for a quick walk. Normal morning chaos had resumed, and as usual the next hour passed in a blur of breakfast, tantrums, and shoe refusal. Having herded the kids and husbot through the door, I got ready for my doctors appointment. As an aside, I mentioned to the GP about my headache, and she said it sounded like a stress headache, which was as likely as anything else.
That afternoon I felt rough, and my Mum offered to take my biggest small thing so I could go to bed.
After a night of agony, I went to the out of hours doctors at 5am on Wednesday morning. She assured me that it sounded like a migraine, and as I had never had one before, I gratefully took the extra strong painkillers from her and went home to bed. That day Mr TDF had to come home from work to look after our daughter.
Donning my biggest shades to avoid the sunlight, the next morning I went back to the doctors. I felt a little stupid as I had repeatedly been told it was something and nothing, but I was in so much pain. He sent me straight to a&e where I was met by my husband. What followed was a day or two, or three in a complete blur, mostly down to the morphine, which had the unfortunate side effect of constant upchucking. They took blood, sent me for a CT scan (which I managed to vomit all over as they had strapped my head down), I was admitted to a ward, and put in a side room, and had 3 lumbar punctures (the first two failed).
Still sporting my massive sunglasses, turquoise hair and flappy backed gown, I took the eventual diagnosis in my stride. Viral Meningitis. OK. Fine. That’s not the serious one. I’ll bounce back in no time. Ever the optimist, and delusional about how physically ill I still was, I was hopeful that I could go home and be with my babies. No deal. The doctor told me that I needed to remain on the IV drugs for at least 5 days. Sob.
So here I was. In my room. In my dark glasses. Drifting in and out of sleep. It was cripplingly lonely despite visits from my wonderful husband, kids and parents. I cried a lot between visits. The nurses didn’t seem to know if I had viral or bacterial meningitis, and I got conflicting opinions about if I could or couldn’t use the ward toilet, wander about, have visitors, see my kids. One minute I was on barrier nursing, the next it wasn’t necessary. What no one (including me) was concentrating on was my mental health, which was unfortunately in a tailspin.
The following Wednesday broke me. A nurse weighed me for the 3rd time (despite the fact that I told her exactly what I weighed), and I attempted to leave the room to go to the toilet. She told me that I couldn’t use the bathroom, and I needed to be confined to my room for the next two days. Sob. It was my Mum’s birthday, and at visiting time Husbot, the kids and my parents arrived with chocolate cake. I quietly cried throughout their visit. I wanted to go home. I was only feeling marginally better, but above anything else, I missed my kids. My Mum spoke to the nurses and cleared up the fact that I was not confined to my room, but by the time they left I just sobbed my way through the afternoon, filled with depression, anxiety, illness, and a longing to be at home with my family.
It wasn’t going to take much to tip me over the edge, but at 6pm something not worth mentioning did. I’m not particularly proud of what happened, but it was seemingly out of my control by that point. I had dissolved into a mess of anxiety, begging them to let me go home. I called my Mum to come and collect me. She turned up and tried to reason with me to stay an extra night. They wanted me to just stay in overnight, and to take bloods in the morning. They even offered to let Mr TDF stay with me, but I just couldn’t. Feeling ashamed of myself, but relieved, I signed my discharge form and we hurried home so I could kiss my babies and read them a bedtime story. I showered and cuddled my lovely, but cross-with-me husband, and had a good nights sleep.
The next morning, with my tail between my legs Mr TDF and I went to the doctors to talk about my anxiety, and try to explain, or justify why I had left the hospital. He, of course, sent me straight back there, and the following 10 hours consisted of blood tests, a junior doctor visit and a consultant visit. Though they would have liked me to stay in on an IV, he understood that my mental health wasn’t at its best, and he discharged me with antivirals.
I’ve been home nearly a week now, and my anxiety has settled down again. There is no doubt that being around my family has been comforting. As for my physical health, well, it’s getting there. It’s going to take a while, and I’ve been warned that the fatigue and headaches could stay with me for months, but if that is the worst of it, then that’s ok.
I want to make it very clear how highly I think of the NHS. It is one of the great things about Britain. Every time I have called a GP I have been seen on the day. From phoning the out of hours doctor, I was seen and back home within an hour. The speed at which they dealt with my tests in the hospital was incredible, and I feel ashamed and embarrassed to have messed them about. It was my mental health that was the problem, and I’m not sure anything could have stopped me from leaving that night.
So I’ll carry on recovering at home. It’s a setback, but not one I can’t overcome. Onwards and upwards.