Meningitis – living with the injuries caused by the infection
Today many vaccines are available to prevent getting meningitis, but there is still a gap in the immunisation of the population meaning that, unfortunately, it is still prevalent and can affect anyone. It is usually seen in babies, children and young adults; hence early immunisation over the first 18 months of life and, more recently, vaccines being offered to teenagers.
Once meningitis has been contracted and diagnosed, it is important to determine whether it is either viral or bacterial as treatment options are different for each type:
- Bacterial meningitis requires urgent and timely inpatient treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics, fluids and oxygen;
- Viral meningitis does not require anti-biotics and can be treated at home (under supervision of a GP or other medically qualified person).
However, each case of meningitis presents unique symptoms and they can vary in severity. Therefore it should be treated based upon each individual’s requirements. Sadly, however, it is estimated that with bacterial meningitis, 1 in every 10 cases is fatal.
The injuries that meningitis can cause
For some people, the treatment will work quickly and the effects will be minimal. Unfortunately, for others, if the illness is severe or treatment is delayed or mismanaged, the outcome can be life-changing.
The long-term problems associated with bacterial meningitis are deafness, impairment of vision, cognitive problems (i.e. problems with processing information, memory, concentration and behavioural problems), epilepsy, mobility problems (such as poor co-ordination and balance), kidney problems and also, rarely, limb loss.
The problems faced by our clients
Each person I help with investigating the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis has had a different outcome following recovery from the acute illness itself.
One client, for example, has suffered hearing loss and brain damage. He was a baby at the time of contracting meningitis, and the damage caused to his brain led to both physical and cognitive problems.
The hearing loss and the brain injury have completely affected his personality and his communication. At age seven he was described as being like a large toddler, with his spoken language placed at around 18 months. He had learned to use sign language but only used it on his own terms, and was also still doubly incontinent and in nappies.
Whilst he was mobile and able to walk, he would only do so if the circumstances were right for him. This inevitably led to problems in everyday life for him and the rest of his family. He suffered with balance issues and problems with his gross motor skills, e.g. catching a ball or riding a scooter.
The behavioural issues became worse as he got older and our client became extremely distressed, non-compliant and at times violent. A serious problem was also his lack of awareness in respect of danger and/or consequences of actions, for example, running out into a road. Inevitably he required 24 hour day care/constant supervision to simply protect him from himself.
The injuries and changes to someone are difficult to deal with for the family, especially when it is in stark contrast to the person they were before the injury. It is important to know that you are not alone in understanding and coping with a profound change to the person you were or to the person you love. As such we recommend seeking help from one of the support groups or charities like Meningitis Now (meningitisnow.org).
If you are concerned about whether you or someone you love has been injured as a result of any potential delay or mismanagement of their treatment for meningitis, we have the expertise to help you understand what went wrong and perhaps seek financial compensation for the injuries that have been suffered.