Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I was literally fighting for my life...

I felt I should do an update regarding my meningitis. I have spoken at length in the past about chiari and wanting to spread the word. Now I have had meningitis, I felt I should talk more about that.
Normally, people recovering from surgery who get meningitis suffer from the viral form of it. I was unlucky, because I managed to get bacterial meningitis. I spoke at length to my doctor about this, after having a mini break down in the last few days of my hospital stay. He was kind enough to talk me through everything and I took notes so I knew what was going on. I was scared and confused about what was happening. I have not written about this much as it scared me so much, and I know people who have chiari read this. I also know that close family and friends read and I didn't want to upset them. It was horrid for me and I feel that it would have been scary for others so I kept it hidden, even from my closest. I am sorry for that!
It is shouldn't be a worry for other chiari people waiting for surgery. I was VERY unlucky to get the bacterial form of the condition.
So basically I had pneumococcal meningitis. According to the Meningitis UK site it is the second most common type of meningitis in the UK. It is also the deadliest form.
When I arrived at hospital with a few vague symptoms of meningitis they didn't think I had an infection to the extent I had. My neck was stiff but it had only been 6 days since my surgery, so this couldn't count that. I had a slight aversion to bright lights, but not as bad as it can be, I wanted to keep my eyes shut at all times but it, at that point was not too bad. I had a headache, but again that was not uncommon considering what my brain had been through. This type of meningitis doesn't produce a rash so that is another thing that doesn't help.
When I got up to the ward after my MRI, about 2 hours after being admitted, things changed. I couldn't keep my eyes open, I was so tired and didn't know what was going on. I had moments of being totally lucid and moments of thinking I was being held in hospital against my own will. I hated bright lights, or any lights. The nice nurse made me a makeshift eye mask and turned off every light. She even stuck a bandage around the bedside TV which for some reason do not turn off. I was vomiting and was very ill. I do not remember too much about this, but the same nurse was looking after me on another evening and told me about it. I do remember becoming lucid and having no idea why my television was wrapped in a bandage. Kind of an odd moment lol.
So my doctor came round to tell me the results of my blood work (infection markers up), took one look at me and got his lumbar puncture kit out, at 6.30am. He also started me on dexamethasone, a steroid. I was not with it too much then, but did perk up a while later.
So LP results showed I had over 8 times the amount of white blood cells needed to be diagnosed with meningitis. You need to have at least 300 to be diagnosed and I had 2600!! It also grew something in some test they do to see what you have wrong with you. The doctor did explain about this, however I have no idea what I have written when I was making notes. Apparently I decided to write in a totally different language. It makes no sense!
So yeah, had 2 weeks of IV Cefotaxime, 4 weeks of oral Rifimicin and 4 weeks of dexamethasone.
I didn't know how unwell I was the first week or so. My doctors didn't tell me as they didn't want to scare me. When I was feeling better I was stupid and looked up the medicine they had put me on online. I found some scary information and this is what caused my massive panic/mini breakdown and prompted the conversation with my doctors. Now this is hard for me to think about and hard for me to type. My doctors had classified my infection. They have a list of like 5/6 levels of infection, based on the expected survival rate. Due to the amount of infection I had, and they way it was very slow at responding to the antibiotics and steroids they had classified my condition as life threatening. This means I had about a 50/50 chance of not surviving, and an even higher rate of being left with severe disability. I was downgraded after a week to severe infection. I was then upgraded to life threatening again after my infection levels doubled. I was then downgraded and eventually made my way right down the infection level chart. Hearing all this from my doctor made me feel good. This might sound dilly, but he told me after I was classed as severe so I was getting better. It made me feel good because I knew that I was fighting and winning. Literally battling for my life and I didn't know, but I still managed it. Made me feel stronger and more able to carry on.
I am lucky as I have been left with only a few residual effect from the meningitis. I have very bad tinnitus which is a nightmare. I did have this before my operation, but not badly, I hardly noticed it. It went after the operation. It then came back when my infection was at its worst. I now have to sleep with headphones in and music playing. I tried using earplugs, but they make it worse. I have to have something playing to distract myself. I also have slight hearing loss. Apparently, my doctor told me, something like 20% of people who survive have hearing loss. I will need to see a hearing specialist, but it seems I have problems with high pitched noises and very low tones. I can hear to talk and have no problems at all with that. However I can't hear bass type sound or squeaks. I have had a hearing test and it just shows that. It may cause me problems in later life. I will know more when I see the hearing doctors. More hospital appointments. Oh YAY =/

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