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Sheryl's Diary

Sara wasn’t well and when her symptoms worsened, her mum Sheryl trusted her instincts and took her to A&M. Her quick thinking meant that a meningococcal B infection was diagnosed in time for Sara to receive life-saving treatment. Sheryl shares her diary of Sara’s experience with the disease and her long road to recovery.

Thursday 10th June 2004
Sara (21 years old) arrived home from work and complained that she was feeling unwell. She went to bed and dozed until dinner, complaining of a mild fever and headache and when she got up for dinner she vomited then collapsed in the hallway saying again “I just feel awful”.

I decided to take her to Shore Care Accident and Medical. The doctor thought it was possibly a viral infection, but didn’t discount meningitis, so we went home with instructions to keep checking every couple of hours for photophobia and a stiff neck.

Friday 11th June
The next day Sara was still unwell with a sore back, aching joints, a mild headache and mild disorientation. She ate nothing and drank little.

Sara decided she would like roast chicken and potatoes for dinner. She attempted to walk to the dinner table but found her ankles virtually locked solid and was only able to shuffle down the hall. She then found she was unable to cut up her food, as her wrists were too sore to put pressure on them.

I felt I should take her back to Shore Care as my gut instinct told me something was really wrong. I put her dressing gown on and knelt down to put on her slippers. At Shore Care I helped Sara onto the bed and lifted her feet up and there was the rash – 5-6 minutes from leaving the house with clear skin.

Everything happened very fast and Sara was taken by ambulance across the road to North Shore Hospital. The doctors knew what they were dealing with and a life-saving antibiotic which kills the bacteria in 20 minutes was administered by drip.

Sara’s condition progressively worsened, the pounding head ache, photophobia kicked in then suddenly her blood pressure dropped dramatically, her pulse shot up and her oxygen levels dropped. The medical team tried to apply an oxygen mask but Sara began to howl and scream and fight them and had to be rushed to ICU to be sedated. Seeing her like this was devastating to the family. The doctor explained all about meningitis and what we could expect – a full recovery he was sure, as she had gotten to hospital in time. Sara was peacefully sleeping and would remain so for the next three days.

Tuesday 15th June
Saturday, Sunday and Monday were spent at Sara’s bedside as they constantly monitored her and unsuccessfully tried to lift the sedation several times. On Tuesday morning the phone rang at 6am – I didn’t know whether I wanted to answer it or not.  It was one of the nurses and her words were “It’s OK, she’s woken up!” Thank goodness!

We were dressed and there before 6.30am to see our girl. She opened her eyes and turned towards us when she heard our voices, and smiled!  No longer the “morphine stare” – this was Sara back again. Thankfully she had no recollection of that awful night when she was admitted.

Thursday 17th June
Sara went home today. She made it as far as the little TV room and collapsed onto the couch there – full circle from the previous Friday.

Monday 21st June
Each day Sara had been improving slightly. I decided she needed some fresh air and as it was a lovely day took her for a walk on Milford Beach – the constant movement of the waves in her peripheral vision nauseated her and 50m was her lot and so back to the car, all at a snail’s pace.

Over the next couple of months, it was a big achievement and a step forward each time Sara was able to walk a bit further, socialize, complete a simple jigsaw, drive or do something on her own or just do the normal things we all take for granted.

Wednesday 7th July
Big news today - the vaccine for meningococcal B is approved. TV3 arrived to interview Sara for the evening news and she also did a phone interview for the New Zealand Herald.

Monday 2nd August
Nearly two months later, Sara started back at work doing a few hours a day just making tea and collecting mail as she was unable to do her job.

November 2004
Sara was nominated as a finalist in the Peace Media Awards student category, and was chosen as a runner up. She felt really good and it boosted her confidence. She is looking better and her stamina is increasing – she is able to do a lot more in a day, although still has headaches and dizziness, wears thermal socks and gloves to counteract the loss of circulation and needs an afternoon rest. 

Sara was offered the chance to receive the meningococcal B shot and received her first vaccination late November. This is her insurance against ever getting it again.

February 2005
Over the last few months, Sara has continued to improve. Now that she is on the mend it has hit home to Denis, Jo and me as to how close we came to losing her. At the time we just coped with it and got on with life. Now we can’t even look at photos of her in ICU.

Sara accepted a new and very challenging job and it was just what she needed. She is regaining her self-confidence and is so busy she has no time to worry about aches and pains.

Disclaimer - The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand promotes the prevention, control and awareness of meningitis. It is not a professional medical authority. The text on this website provides general information about meningitis and septicaemia, not medical advice. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of these diseases. Please consult your doctor to discuss the information or if you are concerned someone may be ill.

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