Ann Marie Flanagan
Ann Marie Had Meningococcal Meningitis
Contracted In 2001
Aged 20 Years
This is my story. The morning of the 19th April 2001 was no different to any other. I was a 20 year old student on Easter holidays from college and enjoying spending time with my relations, who were visiting from America. Around 6:00pm that evening I felt a migraine coming on, or at least that’s what I thought it was at the time. After lying down and resting for a while the headache persisted. It was not uncommon for me to suffer from migraine, so the symptoms were not unusual until I started vomiting and felt really weak. My relations reassured me it was no more than a 24 hour bug, as they had recovered from it a few days earlier. Around 4:00am I started to feel much worse and I asked Mam to come downstairs to the bathroom with me as I felt weak.
My brother was already there with my dad by his side, as he was also vomiting. I recall us laughing and joking that we both had the bug. We had no reason to be alarmed at this stage, as it seemed obvious we had caught the vomiting bug. I can recall my neck felt very stiff, but I assumed it was from having my head over the bed getting sick. There was a digital clock beside my bed and the minutes felt like hours as the night slowly passed. The headache was so strong I couldn’t bare it any longer. I called Mam and asked her what time the doctor’s surgery opened at. She knew at this stage something was seriously wrong, as it was out of character for me to be looking for the doctor. She called the local GP, who advised her to take me straight into her.
When Mam returned to the room, she found me disorientated, vomiting and very stiff. She called my dad straight away in a panic. I remember my dad carrying me downstairs. I was very weak and worried I would fall. He reassured me he wouldn’t let me fall and I would be ok. As I was in and out of consciousness, I don’t have much recollection of what was going on from there on. The GP sent me straight to accident and emergency, where I was met by the medical team and administered penicillin straight away. The following few hours were critical, as the medical team worked very hard to diagnose my condition. After a series of tests and scans, it was confirmed that I had meningitis and later confirmed to be meningococcal meningitis.
The antibiotics were beginning to work and I started to come back to myself around 1:00pm. When I saw the nurse gowning up with gloves, mask and apron, I assumed this was normal practice, as I had never been in hospital before. She informed me not to be worried, that this was the procedure due to me having such a contagious type of meningitis. This was the first I had learned of my condition and I was quite surprised, as I had the meningitec vaccine 11 days previous on the 7th of April. I did not realise at the time there were different strains of meningococcal meningitis. I had only been vaccinated against group C and in Ireland both groups B and C make up the vast majority of meningococcal disease.
The symptoms which I was presented with were an excruciating headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sensitivity to bright lights. There was no sign of a rash at any stage and this is one of the key things people look out for. It was only for the quick thinking of my family and the efficiency of the medical team that I am here today. I would appeal to everyone to make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. It can happen to anyone from babies, teenagers and older people. Awareness is so important for other people to understand the impact meningitis can have on people’s lives. In order to help to do this, I have volunteered with Act for Meningitis, which is a charity set up by Siobhán and Noel Carroll, after losing their beautiful daughter Aoibhe to meningitis in 2008. The aim of the charity is to create awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and help people affected.