I had contracted spinal meningitis in 1974–the virus version–the big poison. “We can’t do anything for her”, the doctors said. “If it was bacterial we could treat it with antibiotics.” It all started with a headache. One that would not go away in spite of numerous over the counter and natural headache concoctions. Then came the fever. And then the stiff neck. A neck so stiff I thought it had turned to brick. Bricks like the house I lived in on Centralia–strong ,unyielding, fortress bricks. My father took me to the ER three times and each time I was sent home. “She has the flu–just keep up with the liquids and rest.” Then came the dizziness, loss of appetite. Almost ready to pass out for good. But God said “No!” (He actually thundered the word). The angels got up, shook off the gold dust and guided my father back to the ER. Me, a lump of aching flesh in the front seat. ER rooms are cold, not comfortable and the colors are putrid. One just knows that whatever is done in these rooms is going to hurt. Thank God for those who retain what they learn. A young doctor took one look at me asked how stiff my neck was. “Like the bricks of my old house,” I said. He did a spinal tap–meningitis confirmed. Isolation. Everyone must wear a gown, gloves and mask. Except the angels who were standing against the wall. I went out coma style for 3 days. Fluids were administered, tears were shed by family, prayers were spoken. I remember a nurse saying something about the color of my skin just before I “left”.
I awoke to faces with masks–one had glasses. The doctor.Don’t remember what they said. My mouth tasted terrible and I remembered I was having my period. “Oh no, I have to change my pad!” I was thirsty. I could feel something uncomfortable in me–a catheter. The angels had gone–their job done. Family came as soon as they heard I was awake. But I don’t remember much of that. But I do remember wanting to slap a nurse, which I would have done if I could have raised my arm, because she told me I needed a sponge bath. “You’re a bit smelly.” She failed the course on compassion in nursing school. The next day she wanted me to use the bed pan–how demeaning. Infants have no problem pooping lying down, but I do. I was not allowed to get up–“It’s too soon”…so the nurse who failed compassion and probably English came in with an enema. I went. And from that point I was determined to walk that eight feet to the bathroom. I eased out of the bed, used that for support until I reached the end of it, used the wall for support, grabbed hold of the door to the bathroom and lowered myself down. Nurse with poor choice of words comes in and says I can’t do that, but I flush and tell her I can.
Meningitis affects the central nervous system. Some things about the past I cannot remember. I forgot how to type and had to teach myself. I was spared. Some people die of meningitis. God had other plans. I will never be able to contract meningitis again. And I am not a carrier. I was blessed long before I took any thought of blessings. Count yours.