A WOMAN who had a near-death experience after falling ill with adult meningitis is speaking out to raise awareness of the killer disease.
Bridget Fox, from Greystones, Co Dublin, contracted bacterial meningitis in November of 2013, but originally thought that she had the flu. The effects of the disease meant that Bridget had to give up her job as a healthcare worker.
She said that she "didn't realise" what was happening to her as she began to get aches and pains and vomit violently.
"It was a scary time for me and an experience that I will never forget," she told the Herald. "I began to get very tired and I later started shivering until I couldn't stop shivering."
She waited for two days, taking paracetamol, until the pain was so bad that her daughter Claire called an ambulance.
"I was too sick to even stand. Claire, my guardian angel, thank God she was there that day," she said.
Bridget was then taken to St Vincent's Hospital where she collapsed in the bathroom while waiting to see a doctor.
"I woke up in intensive care with drips in my arm and everything," she said.
"They told me that I had contracted meningitis and I didn't believe them."
Meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord - the meninges.
Bridget was told that her brain was experiencing severe pressure and that she was lucky that she had come into the hospital when she did.
"They put me on very strong antibiotics because they couldn't do a lumbar puncture as there was too much pressure on my brain."
The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) estimates that there are around 200 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year in Ireland.
The disease is easily mistaken for milder illnesses, but can kill within hours or cause life-long disabilities.
As a result of the disease, Bridget can no longer work as a healthcare assistant and still experiences severe headaches and shoulder pains to this day.
"I lost myself as a person when I got the disease," she said.
"In the process of my recovery I was looking for the old Bridget but I had to learn that I had come out of this as a different person," she said.
"I'm just so grateful to be alive and to be able to help people that don't know what they have and to help them get to the doctor on time," she added.
Bridget said that she wanted people to know about the signs of the disease, which can be as simple as shivering or flu-like symptoms. A rash is not common among adult cases.
MRF said that as many as one in ten of those affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, blindness and hearing loss.
The diseases can strike anyone, of any age, at any time.