THE coronavirus pandemic has made us all suspicious of aches and pains.
Just a week before, her housemates in halls at the University of Edinburgh had the virus, so she just assumed she had finally succumbed to it.
That night the 19-year-old called her mum, Sarah, 58, as she was feeling unwell.
Her housemates had been planning a big night out to celebrate finishing their exams, but Alice had been unable to go.
She was aching and after waking up from a nap, she was dripping with sweat and had a rash.
Concerned, her mum Sarah urged her to do a ‘tumbler test’, which is when you press a glass to your skin to see if your rash disappears – if it doesn’t – then it’s a sign of meningitis.
Mum Sarah knew the symptoms as a neighbour’s daughter had previously died of the illness – at just the age of 14.
She urged her daughter to call 999, but Alice was too embarrassed, so a friend called on her behalf.
Alice said: “If I hadn’t have had the rash I wouldn’t have gone into hospital, all I had was aching limbs and a temperature.
“The week before my flatmates had covid, the typical symptoms of meningitis like a stiff neck and being sick didn’t start until I was in hospital.
“When I got into hospital they put me on antibiotics, steroids and antivirals, without knowing what it was.
“I was really scared to go to A&E, I woke up that night with a rash and Facetimed my mum who was saying ‘phone 999’.
“I was saying ‘I don’t want to’, but a friend did it for me.”
She was taken to the infectious disease unit at the Western General Hospital, where a friend from home Kirstin Malcom, kept her company.
Kirstin had gotten a text from Alice which read ‘I’m in A&E lol’.
Whilst on the ward she held a sick bowel for her friend, who she said was vomiting ‘black colored bile’.
Alice said: “It was probably easier for me because I didn’t know what was going on.
They had to keep me away from people because meningitis is contagious, it was pretty lonely but I had a Percy Pig toy with me
“I couldn’t Google it so I didn’t know how dangerous it is.”
A lumber puncture test diagnosed meningococcal group B, which Alice had been vaccinated against aged about 14.
Meningitis B can be fatal in less than 24 hours if the bacteria enters the bloodstream to cause sepsis.
The bacteria that causes meningitis B lives in the nose and throat and can be spread by close contact from coughing, sneezing or kissing – so it’s particularly prevalent among uni students who live in close proximity to each other.
Signs of the virus can often appear like a hangover, which is why some university students struggle to recognize when they are unwell – as many tend to participate in events held specifically for students, which in most cases, involve alcohol.
Meningitis: The signs you need to know
The symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and include:
- A high fever over 37.5 degrees – the average human temperature
- being sick
- a headache
- a blotchy rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it
- stiffness, especially in the neck
- sensitivity to bright lights
- drowsiness, irritability or lack of energy
- cold hands and feet
The classic rash associated with meningitis usually looks like small, red pinpricks at first.
But it will spread over the body and turn into red or purple blotches.
If you press the side of a glass firmly against the skin where the rash is and it does not fade, it is a sign of blood poisoning and you should get medical help immediately.
Alice is now urging others to check their vaccine records – as hers had ran out in January.
She added: “I didn’t have a headache until I got into hospital, or a stiff neck, or throwing up.
“When they did a lumber puncture they said I could be paralyzed or get septicemia, or lose fingers or toes, or get hearing loss, or brain damage.
“They had to keep me away from people because meningitis is contagious, it was pretty lonely but I had a Percy Pig toy with me.
“Because I slept so much it was less lonely.”
She is now on holiday In Croatia with her family, but doctors were initially unsure as to whether or not she was well enough to travel.
“I was meant to be going to Marbella but that got canceled but the doctors didn’t think I’d be well enough to go to Croatia either.
“It is scary – I was planning to go clubbing on the Wednesday but I woke up and didn’t feel that well, and within five hours I was in hospital.
“We are more aware as a family because we know someone who died from it, but we didn’t know vaccination expires.
“My chances were one in ten, but I feel completely myself now,” she added.
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