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I Had Meningitis - My Experience with Meningitis

Updated on January 16, 2012

meningitis symptoms, meningitis treatment

I had meningitis as a child. It happened on the very day of my sixth birthday. I stayed with my aunt during day in the summer while my mom worked as a registered nurse. A big birthday party was all set for that evening when Mom got off work, but about mid-morning on that day, I got a terrible headache and a sore neck. Soon afterwards, I became nauseated, and my aunt discovered that I also had a fever. She called my mother, and Mom came immediately to check on me. Being a nurse, Mom suspected meningitis right away, so she rushed me to the doctor. He sent me straight to the local hospital, where I remained for about a week. I often think of the summer of 1964 as my “lost summer.” Even after I was released from the hospital, I had to spend the rest of my time out of school in bed, recuperating.

Meningitis affects the meninges of the brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis affects the meninges of the brain and spinal cord.

What is meningitis

Meningitis, sometimes called spinal meningitis, is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are a group of protective layers that cover the central nervous system – the spinal cord and the brain. The meninges have three layers. The dura mater is a tough membranous sac that covers the upper cranium, along with an inner layer close to the brain. The dura mater is rich in blood vessels. The next layer is the arachnoid mater, a sac-like membrane that’s very thin. The third layer, the pia mater, lies closest to the spinal cord and brain. The capillaries in the pia mater carry blood to the brain.

The inflammation of the meninges, or meningitis, can be caused by several different factors. These include infections, drugs, parasites, cancer, lupus, cysts, and some types of vasculitis. In rare instances, migraine can also cause meningitis.

Types of meningitis

There are several different types of meningitis. The most common is viral meningitis. Viral meningitis can be caused by herpes simplex virus 1, herpes simplex virus 2, mumps virus, the virus that causes chicken pox, enteroviruses, and HIV.

Bacterial meningitis isn’t as common as viral meningitis, but it’s a more serious form of the disease. Bacterial meningitis can be caused by several different bacteria, including meningococcus, listeria, haemophilus influenza, mycobacterium tuberculosis, pneumococcus, and others. These bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis following an upper respiratory infection, a sinus infection, or an ear infection. Listeria can be contracted from foods, animals, dirt, and dust.

Fungal meningitis is caused by fungal infections, usually in people with compromised immune systems.

Other types of meningitis might be caused by systemic erythematosus, cancer, cysts, migraine, sarcoidosis, amoebae, or parasites.

Symptoms of meningitis

The symptoms of meningitis are often similar, no matter what type of meningitis is present. Viral meningitis symptoms and bacterial meningitis symptoms often include headache, sore and/or stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, rash, fever, and loss of appetite. Signs of meningitis might also include hypersensitivity to noise and light. Some people with meningitis think they have the flu.

I distinctly remember how I felt on that fateful day in 1964. I had the worst headache I’d ever had, and my neck felt so weak that I had trouble holding up my head. I was also throwing up and was unable to keep anything down. I was so hot from fever that my aunt applied cold compresses to my forehead and set up a fan to blow on me.

Oh, and by the way, you might be interested to learn that my birthday party was held without me. Yep, while I was suffering in the hospital, all my pals were enjoying ice cream, birthday cake, Kool-aid, and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. My aunt looked after the party guests, as Mom was taking care of me. All my birthday gifts were sent to the hospital, and after a few days of drugs and rest, I felt like opening them.

Meningitis treatment

The meningitis treatment a patient receives depends on the type of disease present. Oftentimes, a mild case of viral meningitis will resolve on its own with rest. A patient with severe viral meningitis might need to be hospitalized and given IV fluids and antiviral medications.

Bacterial meningitis treatment is more serious. IV antibiotics are usually administered, sometimes with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Once the specific bacterium has been identified, the bacterial meningitis treatment can become more focused. If there’s significant pressure and fluid around the brain, the fluid might be drained via a shunt. If the patient is experiencing seizures, anticonvulsants will be used. Patients who are having breathing difficulties might need to be placed on a ventilator.

I don’t know if I had viral meningitis or bacterial meningitis. My parents always referred to my illness as spinal meningitis. I assume I had bacterial meningitis caused by listeria because Mom always blamed it on a new kitten I had recently received, or on the horses I was often around. I do know that my meningitis treatment included a hospital stay, lots of IV drugs, and plenty of bed rest. I called the hospital this morning to learn more, but they keep records for only ten years, so I was out of luck. I suppose the only way for me to actually discover the truth would be for me to contact Mom through a medium.

Complications of meningitis

Meningitis can be a very serious condition. In fact, it can be life threatening, especially in the case of bacterial meningitis. Because meningitis symptoms can be so similar among the different types of meningitis, it’s extremely important to see a physician as quickly as possible whenever meningitis symptoms are displayed. If the condition isn’t treated quickly, it can have devastating permanent results. These might include brain damage, blindness, paralysis, kidney damage, and trouble with memory and learning. Fortunately, there are meningitis vaccines available that prevent some forms of bacterial meningitis. Please – talk to your doctor about meningitis vaccines. He can assess your risk factors for bacterial meningitis and decide if meningitis vaccines are a good idea.

Bacterial meningitis:

Meningitis vaccines:


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    • conradofontanilla profile image

      conradofontanilla 5 years ago from Philippines

      The kind of microbe can be identified with Koch's postulate that involves culturing the microbe. Very informative Hub. I included meningitis as one cause of fever among toddlers in my Hub on possible causes of fever.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Teaches, your student's experience sounds much like my own. Was hers bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis?

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Leah, bacterial meningitis can be a devastating disease. I guess I never really realized how fortunate I am in this regard until lately.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Alocsin, thanks for visiting!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      I had a student who had meningitis and she was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. She lost over 35 pounds, lost strength, and was bed-ridden for a summer. She finally recovered but the ordeal was life-threatening for awhile. Thanks for the informative hub.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      Meningitis is an awful disease (particularly the meningococcal form). I have a friend who has a child that had meningitis, and he lost both legs to the disease. The bacterial form can also cause deafness - when we were at John Tracy (an oral-deaf school in Los Angeles), there were several kids who had lost hearing from meningitis. Parents need to be aware of the warning signs - great hub, Habee!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Oh no, something else to watch out for. Thanks for the heads-up. Voting this Up and Interesting.