Age at onset– 16 years
Cause of suffering -Meningitis serotype B
Vaccination status – There is no vaccine for serotype B
Synopsis – Nicole was on a summer holiday with a friend when, one morning, she suddenly developed severe symptoms. Within half an hour she was suffering from severe nausea and dizziness.
‘I felt completely wiped out, like I was recovering from a virus,’ recalls Nicole.
A few hours later, she started experiencing intense shooting pains in her ankle; became breathless and disorientated, and her temperature shot up. She was put in a cold bath to cool her down, ‘but I was just getting worse’, she says.
By the time an ambulance arrived, Nicole had started vomiting and was suffering from severe diarrhea, stomach spasms, and excruciating pain in her legs; one side of her face was also paralysed.
She had contracted meningitis, and as a result, the once active teenager who loved gymnastics and dancing has lost both legs, most of her fingers, and the sight in one eye. She has also been left infertile.
Nicole was initially diagnosed as suffering from a kidney infection; she was given an injection to lower her temperature and sent away with antibiotics 30 minutes later.
But after several hours, Nicole noticed a rapidly spreading rash of tell-tale pinprick spots on her leg; it was then the penny dropped and — recalling talks at school — she realised she was suffering from meningitis.
‘I tried screaming for help, but I could hardly breathe as my lungs started filling up with fluid. I was vomiting, the pain in my legs and stomach was unbearable and these huge black spots were appearing so fast. I screamed for help again, then fell unconscious on the floor.’
She was rushed back to hospital, where doctors said she had a 10-20 per cent chance of surviving.
Three weeks after first collapsing, Nicole was flown home by private air ambulance and immediately taken to intensive care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where she spent the next eight months undergoing 22 operations, before being sent home in March 2009.
The effects were catastrophic. She suffered the amputation of her legs and most of her fingers; the collapse of one of her lungs; dangerous stomach bleeds, a seizure (after which she lost the sight in her left eye) and the near-failure of her kidneys.
Our hearts go out to Nicole and her family; we are very sorry for the pain you’ve had to endure.