Rushed to Hospital with suspected Bacterial Meningitis
2021 ended on a real positive note, there were still things with family and friends to cause concern, but I had completed a few projects with very positive results.
The latest work for our charity had the potential to create something new and exciting. My book for Caroline: Chasing Rainbows – The Stolen Future of Caroline Ann Stuttle was published in May and had some great reviews. We had filmed for “The Real Death in Paradise”, a Sky documentary, which was airing in February. The Virtual Reality project was developing better than expected. It was our 20th anniversary in April, and I thought Caroline would be proud of what we have achieved.
I had finally been able to make time to paint and develop my art again. I’d completed a mentorship programme and was enjoying my healing course. These had brought a lot of different strands of my work together, my creativity through art and writing, philosophy, beliefs, and life experience.
I had survived Covid and although we had to cancel our holiday, we had managed to reschedule. It was only a few weeks away now! We were looking forward to getting away, like most people it had been a couple of years since we had left the country.
Not the start to 2022 I was expecting. I had not been feeling well or on top form for a while. I thought I was just run down, a cold, and now with the new Omicron variant, I thought that I had probably caught that. I had a headache, it got worse over a couple of days. On the 6th of January, my girlfriend came home from work to find me in bed, curled up in a ball, head under the covers groaning in pain. It was nothing like anything I had experienced before. The pain was unbearable. The paramedics arrived, I was given morphine, and was rushed by ambulance to hospital with a potential diagnosis of Bacterial Meningitis.
If my girlfriend hadn’t acted so quickly, it might have been a very different story. I am incredibly lucky to be alive. I was put in isolation on Lilac Ward in Scarborough Hospital. The next few days were a complete blur, I was hazy with intravenous morphine, steroids and other medication. I had a Lombard puncture, CT scan and an MRI. The nurses were all exceptional and looked after me with the greatest of care. One thing I will always remember from that blurry time was the compassion and kindness they all showed me.
One afternoon, I was not sure what day it was or how many days I had been in hospital. A doctor came into my room “You have bacterial meningitis and a 1.3cm abscess on the right side of your brain. We are speaking with the consultants over at Hull Hospital, and you might be taken there tomorrow for brain surgery.”
I was left in shock, still in pain and hazy I had a terrifying evening and night. Everything and nothing running through my mind. I would tell my loved ones in the morning. It was the first time I had really contemplated my own mortality. Even with everything that had happened with my sister Caroline. I knew the human body in many ways could be so fragile, there was still a part of me that was 19 and thought of myself as immortal.
I thought back over my life, we had experienced tragedy and it had not always been easy, but I have done many incredible things. I had travelled, lived and worked in many different countries. Spent summers on beaches and winters in the mountains. Followed many of my dreams and explored my passions. 44 years was over twice as much time as my sister was given in this world. If now was my time, I had experienced life, but no way was I ready to go anywhere. Even with everything I had done a felt like I hadn’t even started, I had so much more to do!
Even with a belief in the afterlife, I was terrified, I didn’t want to go yet. I knew I would see my sister again, be able to catch up with my grandparents and get a different understanding of what this world was all about. With all that said, I had become incredibly attached to my mortal body. I thought of my family, my loved ones. They couldn’t take another loss. My sister and me both in the afterlife would be too much for them to bare. There was so much left unsaid.
The following day I wasn’t taken to Hull. The neurologist thought it best to try to reduce the abscess through medication. It was a case of weighing up the risk, brain surgery could ultimately cause more damage and would only be a last resort.
I spent two weeks in hospital. The first week I drifted through various degrees of pain mainly in my head but throughout my body as it became weaker because all my energy was directed towards fighting the infection. I was in a drug induced haze and couldn’t differentiate from what was a dream and what was happening. I couldn’t take noise, light or to think about anything with an emotional connection. It seems to cause pain. I slept only to be woken every 4 hours for temperature and blood pressure checks, blood tests, medication, and doctors’ visits. Now I get flashes of that week, but nothing is clear, I have no idea what thoughts were my own or came from somewhere else. I hope with time I will be able to gain some clarity.
The second week I became more lucid, I started to be able to think again if only for short periods. My mind was different, it felt slower, clouded. I felt like I was outside myself and sat looking at nothing for long periods. Food became important, I was on steroids and just wanted to eat everything. It was only towards the end of the second week when I talked to the specialists and began to realise the severity of what I had gone though. I really was lucky to still be here, the doctors and nurses were really worried about me for the first few days, they said it was touch and go.
After speaking with the OPAT team, I had a midline fitted and was trained on how to administer my own drugs intravenously. I was discharged, it was so good to be home. Everything felt surreal, like it was a dream. I couldn’t feel anything properly, everything looked slightly different even though it was home and completely familiar. Nevertheless it was good to be home.
People were worried, I had spoken to family and my girlfriend while in hospital but only briefly. I knew they were there for me. I felt I should let my friends know what was happening. I put a post out on social media.
“Not the start to 2022 I was expecting. On the 6th of January I was rushed by ambulance to hospital with Bacterial Meningitis. I am incredibly lucky to be alive.
After a really worrying 2 weeks in hospital. The scare of brain surgery, countless tests, drugs and painkillers I am on the mend. I still have a 1.3cm abscess on my brain. Today, I’m back home. Continuing with intravenous antibiotics for the next 4 weeks with the hope that the abscess will dissipate. I am of course positive, the eternal optimist and have begun my healing journey to recovery.
I must offer my eternal thanks to Ruth who called the ambulance and saved my life. The paramedics who rushed me to hospital, all the staff on Lilac Ward at Scarborough Hospital, without everyone’s love and care I would not be here. Thank you to everyone who has sent me positive thoughts and healing. It has definitely made a difference and means a great deal. Thank you and love you all.”
21st January 2022 and I didn’t feel great, had some painkillers and my intravenous antibiotics. My girlfriend came home after work and I was not in a good place, it felt like the 6th of January all over again. The pain got progressively worse. It became unbearable and an ambulance was called. In A&E I was given drugs and left in a darken room.
I was in pain. The painkillers were helping. I was scheduled for a Lombard Puncture, a doctor came and tried but it was unsuccessful. Another doctor was called. It was painful and I was terrified that I would become paralysed. Luckily the second attempt went well. Another CT scan and I was admitted. This time on the Ann Wright ward. The team were great and looked after me. The next morning, I felt better. CT scan results were positive, looked like the abscess had slightly reduced in size. My bloods showed an over production of white blood cells, my body was fighting hard. I felt completely battered and bruised in body, mind and soul but I was trying to stay positive.
Nothing happened over the weekend. I felt relaxed again and safe to be in the hospital. On the 24th of January I had my second MRI, the consultants were confident that we are heading the right direction. My bloods were showing that the infection was reducing, my body and vitals were strong.
26th January at two in the morning, the results came back from my last Covid test, I was positive. I was immediately moved down to Beech ward. I was now used to waking up and not feeling great but now I had Covid symptoms on top of it all.
I was not sleeping well and still getting woken for medication and observations periodically thought-out the day and night. Bloods taken daily and Covid tests I was sick of getting prodded and poked. I had been laid in bed now for a few weeks and could feel my body losing muscle. It was strange, I was getting stronger and healing but simultaneously my body was wasting away through not getting any regular exercise and fresh air.
With so many days in hospital I had plenty of time to think, my mind was clearing. I knew how incredibly lucky I was to still be here. I was re-evaluating everything, what I was doing, how I spent my time and what I still wanted to do in my life. With so much time to sit I considered my thoughts and what I spent my time thinking about. Was it all worth it? Is what I was I was thinking about worthy of my time? Was what I wanted to do in life really what I wanted to do?
30th January 2022
“Discharged. After 20 days in hospital, I am finally recovering at home. I feel incredibly lucky to still be here, as it was touch and go for a time. I would like to offer my eternal gratitude to the doctors and NHS staff who all looked after me to well.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has send me healing and wished me a speedy recovery. It is incredibly humbling to know how much I am loved and cared for. I certainly have a new perspective on life and what’s important.
I now continue my healing journey from home. The bacterial meningitis is responding well to intravenous antibiotics, the mass on my brain is showing signs of reduction and the symptoms of covid are minimal. I can feel myself getting a little stronger each day. Thank you all for your love, healing and support, it has given me hope each day and means the world. I truly believe that I would not be here otherwise, please accept my unconditional love now and always.”
The healing process starts at home. I was administering my own intravenous antibiotics and anti-seizure medication. For the first week back in my own bed, I just slept. I started to wake up and not feel completely drained and aching. My mind was still not fully clear. I had headaches, issues focusing, reading and trouble with memory and finding words. These would all come back with retraining and time.
Written by Richard Stuttle