A BRIDE who lost her husband to meningitis just six weeks after their wedding is determined to educate people about spotting the signs of the potentially deadly disease.
Jennie Webster met her future husband Paul in 2006 when they both auditioned at Bolton Little Theatre.
They soon discovered they had more in common than a love of theatre and romance blossomed.
The couple married at Christ Church, Walmsley, in August, 2010.
Life was perfect for office assistant Jennie and van driver Paul and they settled in Bromley Cross after a honeymoon in Llandudno and St Ives.
But just six weeks later, Mr Webster started feeling unwell with what they thought was flu.
Mrs Webster, of New Court Drive in Egerton, said: “I remember when he fell ill. It was like he had the flu. It was strange because he was still drinking cups of tea and seemed okay.
“There were no signs of meningitis. There was no rash or anything.”
By October 10, bruises started appearing on her husband’s body and he became confused, so Mrs Webster called an ambulance.
Mr Webster, aged 36, was taken to the high dependency unit at the Royal Bolton Hospital and doctors told Mrs Webster to prepare for the worst.
“They told me it was meningitis,” Mrs Webster said. “It was a horrible feeling. I felt guilty because I should have picked up on the signs. If I’d spotted them I could have saved him. I felt I was to blame.
“When he was taken into intensive care I said to him: ‘You’re too young to die’. He was the best husband anyone could ever have. He had shown me what true love was. He saved me and I saved him.”
Two days after he was admitted to hospital, Mr Webster lost his fight for life.
Almost four years on, Mrs Webster has written a book about the impact meningitis has had on her life and how to spot the signs of the illness.
“People think meningitis is just in children and they just expect to see a rash, but it is not like that,” she added.
“Everything I am doing now is to try and stop people having to go through what I went through.”
Meningitis is usually bacterial or viral — the most serious and life-threatening being bacterial.
This week charity Meningitis Now is raising awareness of the viral form of the disease.
It can be very unpleasant but it is almost never life-threatening and most people will make a full recovery. Patients with viral meningitis usually display mild flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fever and generally not feeling very well.
More severe cases may include neck stiffness, muscle or joint pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.
Most cases of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland are caused by meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia — the blood poisoning form of the disease.
The early symptoms are similar to that of viral meningitis but, as the condition gets worse, people may experience drowsiness, confusion, seizures or fits, a stiff neck, a rapid breathing rate and a blotchy red rash that does not fade or change colour when a glass is pressed against it.
Dr Simon Irving is consultant acute physician at the Royal Bolton Hospital explained: “Viral meningitis is often seen by medics as a milder form of the disease because bacterial is such a serious illness. Yet viral meningitis can be very debilitating for people at the time but it is self-limiting.
“The symptoms are very similar to that of bacterial such as a stiff neck, a headache and a sensitivity to light. Because of these similarities, if anyone has those symptoms we advise they are assessed immediately.”
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are different in babies and young children.
Possible symptoms include becoming floppy and unresponsive, or stiff with jerky movements, becoming irritable and not wanting to be held, unusual crying, vomiting and refusing feeds, pale and blotchy skin, loss of appetite, a staring expression and becoming sleepy and reluctant to wake up.
- For more information, go to: meningitisnow.org
Two types of meningitis – what to look out for
- Meningitis is an infection of the meninges (protective membranes) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
- The infection causes the meninges to become inflamed (swollen), which in some cases can damage the nerves and brain.
- Although anyone of any age can get meningitis, babies and young children are often affected.
- n There are two types of meningitis:
- Bacterial meningitis, which is caused by bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis or Streptococcus pneumoniae, and spread through close contact. This should be treated as a medical emergency.
- Viral meningitis, which is caused by viruses that can be spread through coughing, sneezing and poor hygiene. It is more common in children.
- Meningitis can be difficult to diagnose because it often comes on suddenly and can be easily confused with flu, as many of the symptoms are the same.