Sophie shares her meningitis story to encourage others to get vaccinated
A student has shared her battle with meningitis in a bid to encourage more young people to get themselves vaccinated. Sophie Royce was just 21 when she was struck down with meningococcal type W, a potentially deadly strain of the disease which typically affects teenagers. Medics say the strain has become far more common in recent years, with cases in Wales and England increasing from 27 in 2010 to 215 in 2015.
Sophie's StoryBefore Sophie was able to get admitted into her hospital’s intensive care unit, she collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Her heartbroken family were told to prepare for the worst when she went into a coma, contracted septicaemia and her hands and toes turned a deep shade of black. After having the tips of her fingers and all of her toes amputated, the student nurse has teamed up with Public Health Wales to warn other young people to get the free MenACWY vaccine .
I was very healthy, living at home and all of a sudden everything changed in a flash"“It was like the start of a stomach bug. That’s the only way I can describe it. I had vomiting, diarrhoea – but after that it all went downhill.” Sophie was initially taken to hospital but sent home again when doctors diagnosed her with a “viral stomach bug”. But just hours later, in the early hours of the morning, she began shaking violently and urged her boyfriend to call an ambulance. “My hands and feet were freezing but had an incredibly high temperature. I can’t even begin to describe how awful I felt,” she said. She said deep purple bruising began to appear on her legs “before her very eyes” when she was taken in the ambulance to hospital. She was then transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London which put her on a temporary life support system. “I remember a lot of being in a coma, but I was extremely delirious and I hallucinated a lot,” she added. “It was the most terrifying experience of my life. To see things that are in front of your face which actually aren’t there at all is the most insane thing you can really imagine.” A couple of days later she noticed, during her time drifting in and out of a coma, that her fingertips had turned completely black. “I kind of knew that I had septicaemia. I’m not really sure how. I knew what it was beforehand. I just already knew that I was going to lose my fingertips. “It wasn’t until I was more awake that I started to notice my feet. They had turned completely purple and the blood flow in them was just awful. “They were huge from all the fluid retention. My kidneys had failed too.”
Slow RecoveryMiraculously, despite everything she had endured, Sophie’s health began to improve in the following weeks and months and her kidney function returned to near normal levels against all the odds. But due to severe blood loss, the tips of her fingers, along with her toes, could not be saved. “Two days before my 22nd birthday I had the ends of my feet amputated,” she added. “It was actually quite a relief as I was in so much pain with them, and it was quite difficult to walk. “I had skin grafted from my thighs and placed on the end of my right foot as I still had bones sticking out with no flesh on it.” “It hasn’t come without consequence. I’ve had so many infections that I can’t even count. I’m up to 30 surgeries now already and there will be more to come for sure. “But I can walk quite well actually and I’m getting through it.” Her admiration for the medical staff at the London hospital inspired her to become a nurse. She is now in her second year training as a student nurse and works alongside the clinicians who saved her life. “They are just our heroes,” she added.
CampaigningPublic Health Wales, with Sophie’s help, has started a campaign to get more young people to have the MenACWY vaccine from their GP. They say one in 10 people carry the meningococcal bacteria without experiencing any illness. But this increases to one in four in older teenagers as this age group are the ones most likely to carry the bacteria. A spokesperson said: “Cases of meningitis spike in January, so there’s no better time than right now to protect yourself and those around you.
The vaccine does not offer protection against all strains of the bacteria so it is still important to know the signs and symptoms."“If you were born between September 1, 1996 and August 31, 2000 and have not already received the vaccine, please contact your GP surgery as soon as possible to get protected. “Anyone up to the age of 25 who is attending university for the first time remains eligible to receive the vaccine throughout their first year.” You can watch Sophie's video message here.