I remember when meningitis was a hot-topic: light aversion and stiff neck being some of the key symptoms to look out for. And if my kids breakout in a rash I know to reach for a glass to do ‘the test’. BUT imagine if these symptoms were to arise when pregnant? What are the implications of that. This scary turn of events is what happen to Kirsten Abeeohyay:

  • I went to work that night with a headache but a happy heart. We had been trying for a baby for over a year when got our happy news – a positive pregnancy test!
  • I felt exhausted, but I didn’t have any other symptoms until around week 11 when I started vomiting and having headaches.
  • I had morning sickness during my first pregnancy so I felt strangely reassured by the vomiting, as if it was an outward sign of the baby growing away inside.
  • My 12 week scan showed a healthy, growing baby.
  • Over the course of my nightshift, the headache got worse.
  • Every time I stood up my head throbbed. Towards the morning it got so bad it took my breath away with each pulse. I put it down to a combination of early pregnancy and working nightshift exhaustion.
  • I texted my friend to see if she had any tips for dealing with headaches during pregnancy because I was trying to avoid taking pain relief. She had a recommendation for a headache soothing balm but advised me to call my midwife incase it was due to high blood pressure.
  • I finished my shift and went home. The drive home was incredibly difficult as I was struggling with the brightness and every noise sounded painfully loud.
  • I phoned my midwife when I got home from work. I couldn’t get hold of her so I called the GP for a phone appointment as I was struggling to move by this point.
  • I told the gp I thought I was having a migraine and wanted advice on what pain relief I could take. She didn’t think it sounded like a migraine; I felt frustrated that she didn’t think it was bad enough to be a migraine. I thought she was dismissing me.
  • I couldn’t look at any light by this point; I had closed the curtains in the living room and was lying on the sofa in the dark with my toddler watching tv with the volume right down.
  • The gp decided to come out for a home visit when she wasn’t convinced my symptoms were a migraine. I had a moment of worry because I thought it meant I was likely to have high blood pressure.
  • Before she arrived, my Tesco delivery turned up. The noise from the doorbell sent flashes of pain through my head and it felt like my head was going to burst open. I vomited twice as I made my way to the door. I then opened the door crying in pain. The delivery lady popped all the shopping on my hallway floor, as instructed by me, and I went back to the sofa without putting anything away.
  • With my husband at work I was looking after our three year old. I had managed to look out clothes for him and he had put on trousers, enjoying me being unable to force him into a full outfit. I had put on the tv and he raided the shopping bags for treats. I felt so awful that he was being neglected (and looked feral!) but I couldn’t stand up without vomiting, and could hardly open my eyes.
  • The gp came, checked me over and said to phone my husband to come home as I would need to go to hospital.
  • I don’t remember much from the next day or so. My headache was unbearable, I genuinely thought I was going to die. I couldn’t focus on anything and just wanted to pass out to stop the pain.
  • A lumbar puncture showed I had meningitis. It had never occurred to me that meningitis was a possibility.
  • I tried to check my body for a rash but couldn’t see anything.
  • I remember the doctor moving me (I was on a bed in the hospital corridor), holding my hand and telling me it was meningitis.
  • I didn’t know anything about meningitis other than I didn’t want it, and especially didn’t want it when pregnant. I was in too much pain to think it through and look up any information. The doctor asked if I needed to contact anyone.
  • I had told my husband to take our toddler home as A&E is no place for a wee one with a picking-stuff-off-the-floor habit. I had assumed I would be phoning them for a lift home soon.
  • I hadn’t told my parents or anyone that I was going to hospital, I assumed I had a migraine and didn’t think it was worth telling them.
  • The next day or two was a blur of antibiotics, tests, drips, vomiting, fever and painkillers.
  • I overheard a midwife telling another midwife that I kept asking about my baby, and wondering what she should tell me.
  • There were a number of miscommunications between the staff and in turn, what was told to me which lead to me being heartbroken, believing I needed to prepare to miscarry my much-loved baby. I was told that at this early stage I could just “try again” once I was healthy.
  • I spent a few more nights in hospital. I couldn’t watch tv, or read for more than a few minutes and instead just lay in bed wishing time away. My husband and son came in, bringing me beautiful flowers and get well soon prezzies, and I shouted at my husband to take our boy away. It happened before I realised what I was doing; I panicked and didn’t want my son catching anything by being there. But all he saw was his sick mummy shouting for them to leave. I still feel guilty thinking about it.
  • He cried. I cried. I missed him so much, I had hardly spent any time away from him since he was born.
  • I felt guilty for not being home with him, and I felt guilty for being unwell when I was meant to be providing a safe home for the baby in my belly to grow and develop. I felt guilty, but too exhausted, weak and unwell to do anything.
  • Despite all the worry I didn’t miscarry. I did fully recover, albeit slowly. I waited with baited breath throughout my pregnancy.
  • My baby us now here, I am in love and forever thankful.
  • Things I’ve learned from this: You can have meningitis without having a rash (@meningitis_now for more info on the symptoms, as well as stories from people who have had meningitis).
  • Sometimes health professionals forget that your unborn baby is still your much loved baby, even at 13 weeks.
  • Its OK to remind them. Whilst turning to Google when ill or pregnant is inadvisable, it is worth finding a reputable source of information. The unknown is often more scary, and hospital staff don’t have time to explain fully (they can help find a good source if information though).
  • I’ve got a brilliant support system.
  • Mental recovery is important too. Even though I’ve recovered and my baby is safely here, I still have anxious day. I worry that I’ll miss the signs of an illness, like I missed the signs of meningitis.I feel the ache and overwhelming helplessness. I don’t think I’d cope, mentally, with another pregnancy, but my heart is full with my two wee boys.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Natalie February 19, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    Oh my god was this brought back so many memories for me. My partner Joel had meningitis, he was sent home from hospital after they diagnosed a migraine attack. He woke up that night in agony and was violent and aggressive (totally out of character) we had a new baby and so he drove himself to hospital. Luckily the same doctor was on duty from the day before when we had been sent home, he recognised him and immediately sedated him knowing something was wrong. I got a phone call to come down quickly as they were putting him into a coma as they suspected meningitis. He was in a coma for 3 days, they wasn’t sure when Ted he eowikd reviver fully, thanksgilly he did. It was the scariest time of our lives- thank god for our wonderful NHS in critical care.
    Thank goodness both you and your baby are ok- I totally get the mental side of it too.

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