Meningitis is a life threatening illness that affects both children and adults but we do not get to hear about it as often as we should. In fact, the closest I have ever come to the knowledge of this disease was doing a ‘glass’ skin check on my children each time they came out in spots/rash and then frantically rushed down to my doctor for reassurance. That was long ago, before I became a nurse.
However, I got a real shock when I provided nursing care for a forty-eight year old family man. It was a post-operative wound care as he recently got discharged from the hospital with limb amputation. The limb amputation was a direct result of Meningitis.
As I dressed his wound and chatted to him at the same time, I quizzed him about the symptoms he presented with and how long it took before it progressed. He then narrated to me how he had felt absolutely normal in the morning and later in the day began to experience what he described as a flu-like symptoms; Sore throat headaches, aches and pains all over his body and nausea. His spots symptoms came later on and looked like bruises on his hips and torso.
Still the alarm bells did not ring. His symptoms were not typically of meningitis, thus causing delay in rapid response to treatment. The penny finally dropped as the patient collapsed and his family called the emergency team. By the time active treatment had started the damage had been done resulting in the loss of his feet and hands. On the bright side, he was lucky to still be alive today.
I felt terrible for this man and at the same time admired his courage. He is now locally campaigning for more awareness on Meningitis and Septicaemia. Ensuring that there are leaflets at every GP surgery, available for everyone to read. He also hold talks where he tells his story and empower others.
I must point out that prior to his illness, he had no knowledge of Meningitis. He is not alone on this as many people have little or no knowledge of a life threatening disease such as Meningitis. I have done a bit of digging around and I found some information about Meningitis and Septicaemia.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and Spinal cord. It is a very dangerous disease and can kill with hours. Whilst there are different organism that can cause Meningitis, the most common are viruses and bacteria.
Viral meningitis is not always life threatening but can make one very ill with after effects such as memory loss, lethargic and headaches.
Bacterial Meniningitis is the one to watch, it can kill sufferers and therefore urgent treatment is needed. If survived, after effects may be deafness, epilepsy and brain damage.
Meningococcal and septicaemia– Meningococcal bacteria can cause blood poisoning.
Signs and symptoms.
Although the development of meningitis and septicaemia can easily be confused with other infection, early signs are ; Fever, headaches, nausea and muscular pains. Spots may appear sooner, later or not all.
Act upon it!
I cannot stress enough the importance of rapid response and urgent treatment in this case. Get medical help straight away and do not wait for spots to appear before acting. In a case where rash/spots have already appeared, keep monitoring progress and make sure you have called for help.
Do not worry about false alarm, it is better than putting your life at risk by sitting at home and waiting for the worse to happen. GET HELP FAST!
Thanks for reading and for further information, check out www.meningitis-trust.org
photo credit: Nathan