I'm living the dream after defying odds to survive meningitis

Ellen Coyne

A Dublin woman who was given just a 4pc chance of surviving meningitis is now defying doctors and doing skydives.

Deirdre Nolan told the Herald she'd had a "fresh start at life" after surviving a severe case of adult meningitis.

Friends and family of the Raheny woman were told her chances of living were minute when she got meningitis at the age of 39.

Yet, just five years later, Deirdre is now living a life she could have only dreamed of when critically ill.

Since her recovery, Deirdre has done charity sky-dives, volunteered in Cambodia and trekked in Peru and Argentina.

"There are definitely things I've done since that I never would have done before," she told the Herald. "I suppose you could say meningitis has given me a kind of bucket list. I just look at life really differently now, I was career driven before, but that's not as important to me now."

When she developed flu-like symptoms following a ski-trip in 2007, Deirdre didn't believe for a moment that she had meningitis. "I thought meningitis was just for kids," she said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought that I had it, that adults could get it. And I definitely never thought I was at death's door."

The following day, when she still felt "debilitated" with illness, Deirdre decided to visit a GP -- who immediately called for an ambulance once he recognised the symptoms.

"I owe him my life. If I hadn't gone to that GP, I definitely wouldn't still be here today," she said. Deirdre was rushed to hospital, where she spent more than a week in a coma.

Her friends and family were told by doctors that her chances of survival were extremely slim. Though she spent the following three months on dialysis after the failure of one of her kidneys. "I'm a bit of a miracle," she laughed. As well as maintaining her senior position at an asset management company, Deirdre has now taken on the role of Meningitis Research Foundation's first national ambassador.

"People need to know that this can happen to anyone, at any time. It's not just for kids. People need to know the symptoms, too. I didn't," she told the Herald.

Clodagh Hegarty of the Meningitis Research Foundation said people like Deirdre could save lives, just by sharing their story. "The chances of recognising meningitis within the first five to eight hours can severely increase your chances of survival," she said.