A Fenland student is urging people, especially those who have just started university, to have the meningitis jab after the illness nearly killed him.
James Lowery from Wisbech ended up in an isolation ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after collapsing on a family visit to relatives in Staffordshire.
The 19-year-old, who was due to start Liverpool University to study forensic science last month, is now on the mend, but it was touch and go for nearly eight days and his frantic parents Jo-Ann and Steve were planning his funeral music at one point, as they kept vigil at his hospital bedside.
In all James, who has a younger brother and sister, Robert and Emily,
“It all started with a headache while we were visiting relatives in Stafford, we had been out for a meal and were about to leave to come home when I just collapsed as I walked to the car.
“I was too ill to travel and went to see a nurse practitioner who said I had a virus and to just rest, so I stayed in Stafford. I was being violently sick, so it was easy to think that I had either eaten something or got a virus. But after three days I wasn’t getting any better and so I came back to Wisbech - it was a terrible journey, I just felt so ill. Once I got home my mum rang the NHS 111 number again and they advised I go straight to A&E,” explained James.
Once at A&E he was seen by a doctor who spotted something strange with James’ eyes and immediately had him admitted.
“She was a young doctor and she noticed a kind of flicker or twitch in my eye and she didn’t like the look of it,” he said.
From then on it became a blur for James as he underwent various tests and was eventually diagnosed with viral meningitis.
Meningitis affects the lining outside the brain, but James had the added complication of an infection inside the brain too.
“I was transferred to Addenbrooke’s where they did more scans and tests for the infection inside the brain. I was wired to cables in an infectious diseases room but I can’t really remember anything about it. Mum told me she had started to plan what music to have at my funeral, it was horrific for her to have to watch me being so ill.
“My vaccinations were all up to date, I had even had the meningitis jab, but unfortunately it doesn’t protect against all strains of the disease and I had viral meningitis.
“Having said that I would definitely urge everyone to make sure they have the jab, because it could save someone’s life. Meningitis is a terrible disease and all strains have the potential to kill you. If you can reduce your chances of contracting it then it is the sensible thing to do,” added James, who spent over three weeks in hospital and is now recovering at home.
“I’m hoping to go up to Liverpool in the next few weeks to start my course, they have been really supportive and ironically they sent me an email about having the meningitis jab before starting uni while I was in hospital,” he said.
Doctors have warned James that while he has not suffered any permanent brain damage it could take up for five years for his brain to fully recover.
“I still feel extremely dizzy, but I know I am lucky to be alive,” he added.