Mum-of-five feared she'd never see her children again after viral meningitis diagnosis

A mum-of-five lay terrified and alone in a hospital bed fearing she wouldn’t live to see her children again after she rushed to hospital with viral meningitis.

Stephanie with her children Joey, Jesse and Frankie when they were able to visit her in hospital.
Stephanie with her children Joey, Jesse and Frankie when they were able to visit her in hospital.

More than 18 months on, Stephanie McIntyre is still suffering the after-effects of viral meningitis which left her in hospital for six days in excruciating pain.

Now the mum-of-five, who is studying to become a paramedic, has told her story as she prepares to take on the Great North Run to raise funds for Meningitis Now.

After going to bed early with a mild headache one Saturday night in July 2018, Stephanie woke up with an excruciating pain in her head. When nothing could alleviate her agony, Stephanie called 111 and was told to get to a hospital immediately.

Family photograph: Charley Watson, Alfie Henderson, Craig McIntyre, Jesse McIntyre, Stephanie McIntyre, Joey McIntyre and Frankie McIntyre

She drove herself to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, where tests showed something was wrong.

Due to a family history of aneurysms Stephanie suspected that might be the cause.

Stephanie was being supported by her mum however she had to leave the hospital because being there brought back bad memories.

A few months earlier in May 2018, Stephanie’s brother Alex Slark, 25, suffered serious injuries in a car crash on the A1290. Tragically, despite emergency services’ efforts, Alex died at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

“It was too much for my mam and it was bringing back the memories of my brother so she had to leave,” said the 31-year-old.

“I was lay in the hospital bed with a blanket over my face, I just couldn’t tolerate any kind of light.

“They must have suspected meningitis because I was given a lumber puncture – that was the most horrific thing I’ve ever had in my life.

“I was in a room on my own and a doctor came in wearing a mask and I just said: “I’m going to die aren’t I?”

“I thought I'd never see my children again.”

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Stephanie was put in quarantine and wasn’t able to see her children for three days.

“Every day I was in hospital I was in so much pain. After six days I was sent home but I was still getting these really bad headaches,” added Stephanie.

She went back to work just five days later but when Stephanie got home the pain in her back which became unbearable and she found herself paralysed on the floor.

She was taken to hospital and had a further MRI scan before being discharged the following day.

Since then Stephanie has suffered head aches which would last days and only began to ease in November 2019.

Stephanie, who previously ran Tiny Toes Toddlers, is studying to become a paramedic and volunteers for St John Ambulance.

She has been offered a job with the North East Ambulance Service as a 111/999 call handler.

Stephanie said: “After my brother died and when I was ill, that’s when I thought being a paramedic is my calling.

“It’s taking something really tragic but it’s potentially created something positive. In the long run I hope that, although I couldn’t save Alex, I might be able to save someone else.”

Stephanie is fundraising for Meningitis Now, to donate click here.