I am a recent survivor of pneumococcal bacterial meningitis and I want to share my story.
My name is Rebecca Bostick, and I am a 55-year old white female. I live in Martinez, Georgia, a suburb of Augusta (where the Master's Golf Tournament is played). This past summer (June 2007) I suffered a severe case of pneumococcal bacterial meningitis. As I write this history, I have almost completely recovered, praise God.
In May 2007, I went on an 11 day trip to Europe (England & Germany). I did come in contact with some horses which are not commonly known on this side of the ocean, although they are seen (Shires). About 3 weeks after my return (29 May), I started experiencing a stiff neck, left side. I went to the Veterans Administration Emergency Room on June 16, 2007 (Saturday), thinking I'd pulled a muscle. I'd been changing Air-conditioning filters the night before, I was up and down a lot and I thought I must have strained something. I was given prescription pain reliever for pain and sent home. I did have a temperature of about 100-101. My normal temp is about 96. The pain medication didn't help over the weekend, so I returned Monday (18th), pain worse in the neck & shoulder & going down the back, still with a temp. More prescription pain reliever; no relief. I never did suffer the symptom of the purple rash.
The definitive (admitting) day came on Wed., June 20. I went for a walk-in to my regular primary care doctor. A friend took me and waited with me for a while, and then she had to leave but said she'd be back. She did come back, and in the meantime I was called in to see the doctor. I don't remember being called, I don't remember seeing him. Later I was told that this was when all the symptoms came together at once: high fever, severe headache, sensitivity to light, babbling, and high-pitched moaning/keening. The doc decided to admit me (thank goodness!). My sister, who lives locally, was called to see to paperwork. She still doesn't like to talk about that evening. From Wed. p.m. until sometime Saturday (June 23), I have no recollection of anything except one point when I was told they were going to do a spinal tap. I don't recall the actual procedure, only the warning. I guess this is what actually determined it was bacterial meningitis.
The shoulder/back pain symptoms were caused by a bacterial deposit which had settled into my left shoulder muscle. On Friday, June 22, the orthopedic surgeons performed an arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder to flush out the infectious bacteria. I remember beginning to come around after the surgery on Saturday, the 23rd, quite groggy. I was in isolation, and visitors had to dress up to see me.
Immediately after surgery, and for the next week or so, I was receiving 4 different antibiotics. Some agreed with me, some didn't. At first, I had extreme sensitivity to light, then that gradually went away. I think that was more due to the meningitis than to the antibiotics. But one side effect of the antibiotics, (I think) was the occasional inability to find the right word or phrase. I could "feel" what I wanted to say, but couldn't think of the word/phrase. That problem extended to my foreign language capabilities as well. I told one of the neurologists that I'm fluent in both Spanish and French, but when she asked me to say something, I couldn't voice anything. I did work on it; I wrote down phrases in each language over the next couple of days, and eventually the fluency has returned. One of the antibiotics seemed to be causing headaches and fevers, so they stopped that one and used another in its place.
Another problem appeared when my sister brought me my glasses after my surgery. I put them on and immediately took them off again, telling her "These aren't my glasses!" We argued good-naturedly for a couple of minutes, and I came to realize that the double vision I was experiencing was also probably an after-effect of the meningitis. That also has cleared up. I watched a lot of TV (3 weeks of Animal Planet & TV Land!), and read what I could until my eyes would tire.
After about 4-5 days, I was out of isolation, and after about 1-1/2 weeks, I went to share a room with another female, who was discharged the next day. So - I had the room to myself again (& for the rest of my stay).
Because of the shoulder surgery, I could do little to nothing with my left arm, except let it flop around. After about 2 weeks, the Occupational Therapist came to see me and gave me exercises. I continued to see the Occupational Therapist after I was discharged from the hospital, up until about 2-1/2 weeks ago, when the Occupational Therapist discharged me. I have excellent range of motion, although still not back to 100% strength (resistance).
I was released from hospital care on July 11 with the proviso that someone - either Home Health Care or a relative - could administer more antibiotics through a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter). Radiology inserted it on my discharge date, and they sent me home with enough antibiotics for 10 days. When that period was up (after 9 days), I had another (3rd?) MRI done then saw the Infectious Diseases doctor, who kept me on the antibiotics for another 4 weeks. This is where my sister's previously hidden angelic personality comes in. First of all, she only missed one day of coming to see me when I was in-patient. That was when my mom had been taking the trash can back to its place and tripped on our broken driveway concrete and busted her forehead open, needing about 7 stitches. My sister & nephew took her to the ER that evening, and got back to the house at about 2-3 a.m. When I arrived home, she came to the house every morning (except one) for four weeks to flush the PICC lines with saline, and every evening to hook up the antibiotics. She was so nervous about it the first night, she asked a PA friend and a doctor friend to come over and show her how to do it (in spite of concise, thorough but very fast instructions from the nurse before I left the hospital). Her friends let her do it while they supervised -- after that it was (usually) a breeze.
When I'd had 3 weeks worth of those antibiotics, I had a 4th MRI. I saw the Infectious Disease doctor again 2 days before the 4 weeks of meds were finished. When the doctor walked in to his office where I was waiting, he said "I have nothing but good news." According to the MRI, there was absolutely “no trace” of any bacteria anywhere around my brain or in the meninges. It was completely gone!
My recovery challenges have been: therapy on my shoulder, re-growing "good" bacteria in my G.I. area after the antibiotics killed “all” the bacteria, regaining my strength, and thanking everyone for their concern and prayers. I know I can attribute my incredibly complete recovery to my Lord and the prayers that went up for me, not just for healing, but also for wisdom and knowledge of the doctors and nurses who were taking such good care of me. I can also thank God that my 91 year old mother who shares a home with me, did not contract the disease.
On a final note, I know - without anyone telling me specifically or in so many words - just how close to death I was those first couple of days when I was comatose. I didn't see any white lights, I didn't hear the rush of angels' wings or hear a heavenly chorus, but because of the almost complete loss of about 3-1/2 days of my life, I know that I almost lost it. I know that my perspective on life is changing (it doesn't happen overnight), and the most important things are coming to the surface - like the loving concern of family, friends, and colleagues, and that God hears and acts on sincere, earnest prayer. This has been a very enlightening time for me, and while the battle was tough and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, neither would I wish to undo the changes it has wrought in me, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.
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