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To Fucking Meningitis

Without meaning to sound like an absolute plonker, I do believe that the number 3 is rather significant in life…ok, wait, before you roll your eyes and turn the page because what I just wrote was pretty lame, hear me out. The 3 musketeers, the 3 witches in Macbeth, the sauciness of a THREEsome, 3 glasses of wine to get you feeling wavey on a night out, at 3 years old you start school for the first time and of course, three years of university. But, for me personally, on this month in particular marks a very key moment in my life – 3 years since I nearly died in my tiny little room on campus.

I was only 18 at the time, just a mere fresher; bright eyed and bushy tailed trying to find my way in life. Though the first month at university was tough, you know, the usual learning how to cook for yourself, dealing with fresher’s flu, staying up until 4 in the morning nattering with your new flat mates, realising that a whole packet of Tangfastics and a herbal tea doesn’t actually constitute as a nutritious and delicious breakfast, I was having a rather fantastic time. So much so, that I didn’t realise that the nasty cold I had was dragging on for a really long time, nor did I bother to listen to the hushed rumours of some deadly disease that preyed upon university students whilst they slept.

It was on October 8th 2014 when my life suddenly decided to, in the words of Missy Elliott “flip it and reverse it.” Every little expectation and tiny dream I had in my life was capsized by this humungous, fuck-off wave of total destruction. Meningitis. Meningococcal Septicaemia to be precise.

The thing is, I was a totally healthy human being. I’d never had any health issues in my life – heck, I’d never even broken a bone. I had no idea what was happening to me in that cramp room of mine at four in the morning. It hit me like a boulder to the face, like someone had gouged their hands into my stomach and started to rip my insides to shreds. My hands and toes had gone numb, my lips had gone purple, and a cut on my chin had turned black. I couldn’t move. I’d shuffle for a moment to try and keep myself warm and then smack on the floor again. Darkness. All I could hear was some raspy, guttural breathing, like an old person’s final breath, I couldn’t believe it was mine.

I could go on and on about what happened that night, I wish I couldn’t remember what happened, but as much as I try to block it out it still stays there – just perched in the corner of my brain. I remember the metallic clanging of the stretcher I lied on in the resuscitation unit, and the man next to me, screaming in agony from a motorbike accident. I remember feeling confused that the doctors were spending more time with me than with him. I remember being wheeled to Intensive Care Unit, with the tube that scratched down my nose and throat and the nurses puncturing my neck, the franticness of the doctors and my mum shaking her head in denial.

I was in the Intensive Care Unit for 9 days. During that time I was hooked up on life support, my lungs had filled up with fluid; my intestines had turned to mush, brain swollen, and blood pouring out of my eye. I nearly died 3 times during my stay in the ICU – I guess you could say I’ve always enjoyed being a little extra.

When they told me it was Meningitis, I felt a little underwhelmed I suppose. I didn’t know what it was, but I expected some dramatic attempt of murder, perhaps someone had POISONED ME or that I’d wake up and find out that I could speak Japanese or I had become a fantastic artist. Instead, when reality hit me, I realised that my kidneys were destroyed, I’d have to learn how to walk again, that I was 2 stones lighter and had an ass as flat as a chess board, and on top of it all, I had tubes inserted all over my body.

I felt ugly. I had to drop out of university too, which made me feel stupid. I hated my appearance, the way people would look at me with pity and I hated that everyone else was having a super-duper time at uni whilst I was stuck inside, plugged into a dialysis machine watching back to back episodes of Friends all day. (After spending a significant amount of time watching the Hit US TV show, I can confirm that Ross and Rachel were in fact, on a break).

9 months later in April, I received a kidney transplant from my dad and it is an absolute trooper! So much happened during those few months, from being a healthy, fun loving fresher to looking like a white walker in Game of Thrones – losing everything that I had taken for granted and trying to gain it all back again, along with having 2 kidneys lose all of their functions and then ending up with 3. All of this happened, because of Meningitis. This awful disease that no one ever speaks about, but is actually really deadly, especially to university students.

I am lucky, sometimes I don’t feel that way but I know I am. I find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that really I should have died, that at the age of 18, my short life could have ended, just as life was about to start. I’m now in my final year of university, and I’m doing ok. I’m healthy, I have friends and a social life, and the only physical reminder I have left is a large scar on my stomach from the kidney transplant.

There have been some ups and downs of course; life is not a bed of roses, as we all know by now. For a long time I felt ashamed of my scar and what had happened to me – I kept it a secret for nearly a whole year when I came back to university and even now, I’m nervous of people seeing it and the thought of starting a new relationship can be daunting. What will they do when they find out what happened to me? Will they freak out when they see the scar? Will they think I carry too much baggage? But then I remember that they can fuck right off if they can’t appreciate what I have been through.

It has been a challenge and although I wouldn’t say it’s been a blessing, what I have gone through has made me who I am today and has made me realise what is truly important in life for me (5 pints and a couple shots of tequila. Only joking…)

So, to conclude this long-winded article, I have 3 key points for you to take away:

1. Get a meningitis jab if you haven’t done so already.

2. Life can be really, really shit for everyone, but (as cliché as it sounds) there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

3. Haribo and herbal tea is not a suitable meal for anyone.

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