A Stratford meningitis survivor is determined to raise the profile of the devastating disease and show others that it can affect people of all ages.
Mum-of-two, Jo Arnold, 48, contracted meningitis in March 2014 and was placed in an induced coma while doctors treated her.
The teaching assistant was forced to have amputations, including to her fingers, as she battled the disease and says her life has been affected in every way since.
However with today marking World Meningitis Day, Jo has teamed up with the charity Meningitis Now to raise awareness of the symptoms so others can know when to get help.
Jo said: “People just think meningitis affects children and teenagers, but it can strike people of all ages. I remember laying at home and thinking I had the symptoms of meningitis because I know them for my children, but you just never think it’s going to happen to you, especially as an adult.
“It was my mum who realised I should go to hospital because I could actually have it. I was put in a coma for a month and when I came round my husband explained that it was meningitis. It took a while to sink in.
“It was not until my husband showed me other people’s stories on the Meningitis Now website that I realised that this did happen to others.
“It’s affected my life in every way possible, I can’t handle money, I can’t peel potatoes and some cash and parking machines can be very difficult because they don’t push out the ticket or card far enough.
“You learn to adapt though, you learn where to park, which cash points to use, you learn to ask for help in the supermarket if you don’t think you’ll be able to grip an item.”
After leaving hospital Jo went on to receive vital support from Meningitis Now, who provided counselling, peer support and funding to make the family kitchen more accessible.
The charity even organises social gatherings between families affected by meningitis and Jo’s daughters have made lots of new friends.
Jo has learned to drive again, returned to part-time work and has even spoken at the House of Commons about her experience for Meningitis Now’s ‘Adults Get It Too’ campaign.
Jo said: “It would have been so much harder for me without Meningitis Now, they’ve been fantastic, when I came out of hospital I thought I was alone, I didn’t know anyone who’d had meningitis, definitely no adults, but they reassured me that I didn’t cause this, it gave me comfort knowing it was just bad luck.
“Meningitis can wreck lives and it’s vital that everybody understands how serious it can be for individuals and families. That’s why I’m supporting World Meningitis Day.
“My meningitis journey will always continue but it has taught me how precious life is and to cherish it.”
Early symptoms of meningitis include a fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold feet and hands.
While most associate meningitis with a rash, people should not wait for one to develop before getting help.
Other symptoms include drowsiness, a stiff neck, a dislike of bright lights, confusion and irritability, pale blotchy skin spots/rash and convulsions and seizures.
For more information about Meningitis, and other symptoms seen in babies and toddlers, visit www.meningitisnow.org.