I am a recent survivor of pneumococcal bacterial meningitis. My name is Rebecca Bostick, and I am a 55-year old white female. I live in Martinez, Georgia, a suburb of Augusta. In 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 Shire horses which are not commonly known on this side of the ocean. About 3 weeks after my return (29 May), I started experiencing a stiff neck on the 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 had a temperature of about 100-101. The pain medication didn’t help over the weekend, so I returned Monday (18th) with more neck pain. The pain had also spread to my neck shoulders and down my back> I also still had a temperature. I took more prescription pain relievers but had no relief.
On Wed., June 20th, I was admitted to the hospital. I went for a walk-in to my regular primary care 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 was called to see to paperwork. From that Wednesday until sometime Saturday, June 23rd, 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 and back pain symptoms were caused by a bacterial deposit which had settled into my left shoulder muscle. On Friday, June 22nd, 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 and being quite groggy. I was in isolation and visitors had to dress in protective clothing to see me. Immediately after surgery and for the next week or so, I was receiving four different types of antibiotics. Some agreed with me, some didn’t. At first, I still had extreme sensitivity to light, then that gradually went away. 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 has also cleared up. I watched a lot of TV 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.
Due to 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. I have excellent range of motion, although still not back to 100% strength (resistance). I was released from hospital care on July 11th with the provision 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 3rd MRI done and 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. When I arrived home, she came to the house every morning 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. After 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. 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.
A Great Big Thank you to the Winton Family