Every SECOND counts. If you suspect meningitis, GET MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY. Call or see your doctor / Call an ambulance / Get to a hospital.

Sarah's Story

Sarah's story is different. Her symptoms were different. The idea of meningococcal disease or meningitis never crossed her mind. But she new something was wrong. And her GP was concerned too.     

Sunday 18th August 2013.

I went to bed that night, after a big day with a large group of Crossfit friends. After doing a few workouts, followed by a social game of touch rugby and a BBQ lunch I was definitely ready for an early night.

I woke around 2am (Monday 19th August) and felt numb all down my left side. I tried to pick up my cellphone which was beside my bed to see what the time was but I couldn’t grasp it and it fell to the floor. I got up and went to the bathroom to look in the mirror as my first thought was ‘am I having a stroke?’ My face wasn’t droopy so I went back to bed and lay there for what felt like forever, the numbness eventually subsided and I fell asleep.

My partner Daniel was flying out to Australia for work later that day and had his alarm set for 4am as his workmates were picking him up soon after to travel to Auckland to fly out.

I woke with him, said goodbye and fell asleep again.

At 6.30am my alarm went off to get up and ready for work. I felt fine and didn’t give the numbness incident much thought until I sat down to eat breakfast (leftover snapper from the night before). I wondered if the numbness may have been some sort of reaction to the fish but as I was feeling fine I ate it anyway and continued getting ready for work.

I was about to leave for work when I decided that what happened during the night wasn’t normal.

As I was working 1.5 hours away from home in a dental clinic in a remote rural area, I decided I would take the day off work and go to the Doctor. I made an appointment and visited the Doctor, he checked my eyes, blood pressure, pulse etc. and everything was normal, but he wasn’t satisfied. He told me to go home and find somebody to drive me over to the nearest hospital 30mins away. He wanted a brain scan done. I later found out he suspected a brain tumour.

Finding someone to take me over was a bit of trouble as everyone was at work, but I had a good friend, Jackie, who was at home with her young children so I tried to get in touch with her. She was down at the pool swimming so returned my text message a wee while later and was going to come and pick me up.

I was calm. I thought the Doctor was just taking extra precautions, and still feeling fine, no numbness or anything. On arrival at the hospital I sat in the waiting room for a while until I was taken through to a cubicle with a bed in it. They went through some triage questions and the Doctor wasn’t worried about anything. He decided I probably didn’t need a brain scan and we sat around waiting for the usual discharge paperwork.

Whilst waiting around Jackie noticed a red rash developing on my neck and ear, a short time afterward I started to feel numb again. Jackie called the nurse and she was asking me questions but I couldn’t communicate, my speech was slurred and I was hyperventilating.

The Nurse handed me a brown paper bag to breathe into as she thought I was having a panic attack. I wanted to tell her that I’d had fish for breakfast and maybe it was a reaction of some sort but the words would just not come out.

The Doctor came back and asked Jackie if I was a drug user and if it was possible I’d had an overdose. Having never touched drugs in my life this was never going to be the case. I could hear some of what was going on around me and then things went black.

From here I don’t remember a thing. I became physically aggressive to the staff trying to help me which is when they made the decision to sedate me. Jackie’s sister (also a friend) worked in the radiology department, so Jackie rang her in a panic and got her to come down to ED straight away.

The Doctors did not know at this point in time what they were dealing with, so ran every test under the sun. My parents were contacted and Mum was at the hospital within the hour. Dad started the long drive from Wellington.

A lumbar puncture was performed and from here they started treating me for meningitis.

I was put into an induced coma and flown to Tauranga hospital where an MRI scan could be performed. I was fighting so hard that I needed to be given more sedation than what they would give a large adult male.

From this point the Doctors knew I was most likely going to fight this, but they weren’t sure what damage may have been done to my brain already.

I was in an induced coma for 2 days to allow my body to rest.

My Gran had a heart attack a few days before I arrived at Tauranga Hospital so we were in there together. Whilst I was still sedated she got her nurses to wheel her up to my bedside in ICU and my monitors would beep like mad. I obviously could hear her voice.

Once I came around I really struggled to accept what had happened, it was like a dream. I thought someone was playing tricks on me. Only the pounding headache reminded me that I had been very unwell. Anywhere I lay my head felt like it was as solid as concrete.

I spent a few more days in hospital and it was confirmed I had viral meningitis and encephalitis.

I was told that had I not have been so fit and healthy I probably would not have been so lucky. I asked how I’d likely have picked this bug up and they couldn’t say for sure, but thought possibly from someone spitting on the ground on the rugby field. I had gone from the field to the BBQ without washing my hands.

For a good year afterwards I had recurring migraines, and apart from a bit of mild memory loss, I have made a full recovery.

I want to share my story because my symptoms were not typical meningitis symptoms. For some reason that day I decided to go against my ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.

If you feel like something isn’t right, get yourself checked. I will forever be grateful to my GP for taking action even though it didn’t seem like anything was wrong, things could have turned out so different!!

P.S. Always wash your hands before eating, and never spit on the ground if there’s a chance someone may come into contact with it.


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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