Daisi Pollard Sepulveda
Mrs. Ethnic World International 2012
I have never been one to categorize myself as a victim of anything. I have always been extremely independent, self-sufficient and adventurous. Some may call me an over achiever. Before I became ill, I was on the fast track. My modeling career and business prospects were on the rise. I felt I was having a great life experiencing new things, new people and new challenges. I had never suffered an illness and had rarely been sick. I was healthy and strong. After becoming sick with meningitis, my life completely fell apart. Although I am extremely fortunate to have survived, I had experienced very challenging times with my physical and emotional wellness during my recovery. However, because I have triumphed above the severe damage meningitis leaves many of its victims; I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility in being part of the process of eradicating the meningitis virus.
In May of 2006, on a return trip from Sea World in San Diego I began not feeling well, like I had sudden stomach flu and my head was pounding terribly. I pulled over to the side of the road and called a friend for help because I didn’t feel like I was in good enough condition to drive. I sat on the side of the road for several minutes after leaving a voice message contemplating how I was going to handle the remainder of the drive home. I don’t know what came over me but I just knew I needed to keep going. I continued driving staying calm and focused on the road although things seemed blurry and the nausea was getting the best of me. I honestly don’t know how I made it home that night.
I began to vomit while driving, pulling over every few miles to relieve myself. It didn’t occur to me to go to the hospital. I rationalized that I had just ate something really bad and soon it would be over. For two hours I continued to vomit. When I reached home it was the middle of the night and I thought if I just rested it would be over by morning. Something kept telling me not to go to sleep. I called a friend to come over to help me stay awake. I said I was going to wait until sunrise to see if I still needed to go to the hospital. By 5am I began experiencing diarrhea in addition to vomiting. I tried to eat bread because by this point I had absolutely nothing but stomach fluid to vomit. When I began to feel the need to vomit while I was eating I knew there was something terribly wrong.
I was getting worse. I knew I needed to go to the emergency room. I was completely incapable of driving myself so my friend drove me.
My head was spinning and I felt intense pressure from the light and surrounding noise. When I arrived at the emergency room for the first time, my temperature was slightly high. My symptoms were so close to that of a bad stomach flu or food poisoning. I was treated for stomach flu symptoms and sent home with a prescription.
At first there was a slight relief. I wanted to sleep but by the time I returned home I was back to bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. This time my friend noticed that I was becoming unconscious while I was vomiting. I told my friend I was just tired from not sleeping. I asked my friend to darken the room hoping for the headache to subside. The doctor had told me to monitor my temperature so every few minutes we were taking my temperature. My temperature was increasing. I started to become delirious. I attempted to get up and walk a few steps to the bathroom when I had a seizure and collapsed on the bathroom floor. I hit my head on the corner of the bathroom sink. My body lay limp on the bathroom floor. Fortunately there was someone there. My head hit the sink and then hit the floor. The left side of my face was bruised and bloody. I was taken back to the emergency room.
When I think about it now and I don’t know why the ambulance wasn’t called but there was just so much panicking going on.
After being admitted to the hospital, the doctors and nurses still didn’t know what was making me so incredibly ill. I was given many tests including MRI’s. They thought maybe I had a brain tumor or some kind of cancer that was causing me to be this sick but all tests came back negative - even my blood work. It wasn’t until I became completely incoherent; going in and out of consciousness that meningitis came into the equation. Up until this moment they were going to discharge me on the notion that I was having a really bad reaction to something. Although I was really in bad shape, I could still hear what was happening around me. When I heard the word, “discharge” I freaked.
I tried to sit up in my bed, I was trying to cry but my body didn’t have enough fluids. I tried to talk but I couldn’t force myself to make sense. It felt like it was impossible. The lifesaving moment came when my doctor realized that I was unable to move my neck. When the doctor noticed my movement he immediately asked me to turn my head to the left - I had a delayed comprehension but when I did attempt to turn, I tried to turn my whole upper body. He told me to move only my neck to the right but again I couldn’t. I was in a state of confusion and my inability to control my body scared me.
I remember the doctor’s words in that moment were so clear and absolute. He said, “You have meningitis. How the freak did you get that?” I knew it was fatal from the seriousness and silence that took over the mood of the doctors and nurses. You know doctors are supposed to stay calm. The last thing I heard was “Spinal Tap”. The nurse was trying to keep me conscious and calm but I went unconscious. I felt like I was going to die and I just wanted to sleep through it.
Everything else is still a blur almost 8 years later. I woke up in the hospital hooked up to IV’s. I still didn’t understand the severity of my condition. I don’t remember much about my hospital stay. I didn’t know the severity of meningitis until much later in my recovery. Everyone kept telling me how fortunate I was and how much of a miracle it was that I made it. It wasn’t until I started researching and learning on my own about meningitis that I realized what I went through and what I had overcome.
Most outsiders of the disease do not understand the hurdles and obstacles faced by those who have survived. For many of us our war wounds are obvious. We have amputations and physical disabilities. Some of us wear our scars on our skin like tattoos made out of skin grafts but for the select few of us the scars are internal. We are marked on our hearts, minds and conscious with the burden and guilt of having been saved.
I have learned to embrace my meningitis. I learned how to use it as a tool for self-improvement to make my life better in as many aspects as I can.
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