John's story

I contracted meningoencephalitis in late April 2012 (the 24th to be exact). We had had a great weekend with friends and perhaps a bit too much alcohol. I felt a bit run down on the Monday and then on the Tuesday felt just about OK. I was up and sending emails at 6.30am! I ate around 9am and started feeling very strange. The only way I could describe it was feeling ‘disassociated’ from myself. I was unable to think straight or make any sense of anything.

My wife rushed me into the GP's surgery for a 10am appointment where apparently I collapsed and started fitting. I was rushed into A&E where they did a number of tests, CT scan, blood tests, MRI scan and many more. I don't remember any of this though I'm told I was fighting / resisting the doctors and medics. I was placed in an induced coma and further tests were done. The final diagnosis being meningoencephalitis. I also had a suspected heart attack whilst in the coma, though I'm due to go for a definitive series of heart tests towards the end of June.

I was brought out of the coma six days later and spent a further five days on various wards recovering. The hardest thing to come to terms with is the speed of this illness; from being completely healthy to being in an induced coma was basically 36 hours.

I feel extremely lucky to have come out with minimal after effects. I have some memory loss and get confused easily, I have a sore throat which has lasted a couple of weeks (I suspect this is due to being intubated) and a very sore back which is easing day by day.

The symptoms I had were feeling as if I had the onset of flu, with a slight fever. I didn't (as far as I recall) have a severe headache or an aversion to light, but my wife tells me I went to bed early the day before, complaining of feeling very run down and that the day of the collapse she had to help me dress. I only recall bits and pieces of the Monday/Tuesday.

When in ICU and under the induced coma I had some very strange, horrid hallucinations, due to the morphine and other medication they had given me. But as they brought me out of the coma I started to get back into the real world, though I did manage to confuse what one nurse told me when she gave me a load of tablets to take and I swear she told me to put eight small tablets in my ears, which I mulled over for a good 10 minutes. But as I'd been such a fractious patient whilst there and had now decided to turn over a new leaf, I didn't question her and did place four tablets in each ear, only for her to return some time later and ask me why I had tablets in my ears!

3 months on, I am on six tablets a day – rest assured taken orally and not in my ears – and making great progress. I look back at my time in ICU with a bit of humour as family tell me stories of what I did or what I was like. I still remembers bits of it in the small moments I woke and even those moments bring a smile. Whilst seriously ill and very delirious at the time with some awful hallucinations, the pictures and short videos my family had taken, as well as a diary the ICU staff had created for me for them and family to write in, all helped piece everything together. I am very, very grateful for that.