The importance of the meningitis vaccination for students: Louise's story
6th October 2015
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So, I got an email this morning from the University of Portsmouth (the place that is about to become my home). The subject line: Meningitis. The email was encouraging people to get the Men ACWY vaccine at the start of term, if they hadn’t already. ‘This is awesome!’ was my initial thought, because it is massively encouraging. This was one of those situations where I had to remove myself from the equation. I had my Men ACWY vaccine on August 21st. It was very simple; I phoned my GP and made an appointment. I needed absolutely no encouragement to get this particular injection. In fact, once we find somebody willing to do it, my parents are going to pay for me to get the Men B vaccine as well. For me, anything to prevent this disease is something worth doing but I guess once you’ve had one strain, and had your life turned upside down, a vaccine is an obvious option. Men ACWY is free too, so it’s especially simple. It helps, I suppose, that I spent the last week on work experience at head office of Meningitis Now - the charity that provides lifelong, dedicated support to those of us unlucky enough to be affected by meningitis, and also puts a huge amount of time and resources into preventing future cases when it’s possible. They are in the process of launching their new student campaign. My timing was impeccable: as somebody who is about to start university, I couldn’t have chosen a better time to show up to the office. It seemed they had a lot of questions and some poor sod had to answer all of them. I was that well timed, poor sod. When my sister and I discussed the drive to get students to get vaccinated she had this to say: “Ask them: Do you want to die?If they say no, tell them to get the vaccine.” Simple, but effective I guess, but this is what I mean when I say that I have to think outside myself. I had an incredibly severe and aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis when I was 11 years old. I should have died. I ended up in the ICU of Bristol Children’s hospital, in an induced coma, and had to have brain surgery. I was lucky to wake up and I was lucky not to be severely brain damaged. My family went through hell that week, and my life was never the same again. The after-effects are still here. When you go through that and find out that there was a vaccine all along, a vaccine that could have prevented it, you go a little crazy. I had pneumococcal meningitis. There is a vaccine which covers a certain number of strains and it is one of those that I had. I just wasn’t ever offered it. So when the government say: “Here’s a vaccine to stop certain types of meningitis”, I jump at the chance. Most people don’t have that experience though, so maybe the motivation isn’t there. That’s what Meningitis Now is fighting for; to make everyone motivated. Students are a huge at risk group as it is. You’re away from home, you maybe aren’t looking after yourself very well (alcohol and Super Noodles), and you’re four times as likely to have the bacteria in your body as the general population. As great as the vaccine is, it does not cover all types of meningitis - which is why Meningitis Now works so hard to raise awareness. Everybody needs to know the signs and symptoms of this truly evil disease because once somebody has it, it only takes hours to kill.
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