University of Portsmouth student was minutes from death after mistaking meningitis for a hangover after night out at Pryzm
THE last thing Ben de Souza remembers after a night out at Pryzm, was his friend feeding him bread and water; a week later he woke up in intensive care.
The University of Portsmouth student thought he had a hangover after he fell ill following a night out with his cricket team last November but friends were forced to call 999 after he began to lose consciousness and he was taken straight to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
The now 20-year-old was found to have meningococcal septicaemia (MenB) and following two strokes, spent more than two months in hospital.
Ben said: ‘We were on a night out in Pryzm and I felt quite drunk so I went home. I felt really ill and I just thought it was a hangover and the last thing I can remember is a friend feeding me bread and water.
‘Then I woke up in intensive care a week later. I had no idea what had happened and it took another week for me to be able to use my hands and then I typed a message on my mum’s phone to ask what was going on.
‘Everyone around me had been speaking in medical terms so I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me but then they sat down and explained in simple terms. It was scary.’
After six and a half weeks in intensive care, Ben was moved to F1 ward where physiotherapists helped him to learn to walk again and regain his independence.
The business and management student said: ‘It was hard work but the staff were absolutely amazing.
‘Being able to go to the toilet on your own seems like a small thing but after having to relearn everything, after being in the ICU, it felt like such a huge achievement.’
Mum Arlene said: ‘We are and will always be indebted to Queen Alexandra Hospital for giving us our son back.
‘Without the interventions of those who work in emergency department and the ICU our son would not be here today.
‘I was deeply moved by the care that received and as a family we are ever grateful.’
Ben, from West Sussex, is now headed back to university and hopes to complete his degree before joining the navy, and has warned students to be aware about the danger of meningitis.
He said: ‘I had heard of meningitis before and stories of people affected but you never think it will happen to you.
‘I want people to be aware and not to confuse it with a hangover or even coronavirus. If I had self-isolated because I thought it was coronavirus then I know I would not be here right now.’
Charity Meningitis Now is encouraging students to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and contact NHS 111 or their GP if they are unsure.
Chief executive Tom Nutt said: ‘The harsh reality is that some students will contract meningitis whilst at uni this coming autumn and how easy will it be to put a headache and feeling unwell down to Covid-19 and self-isolate? And whilst this is the correct response for Covid-19, it could be disastrous if the illness is meningitis.’
Arlene added: ‘Being told that our son was the sickest patient in the hospital, will live with me forever.
‘The outcome for Ben could have been very different if he and his mates had also been dealing with the added confusion of Covid-19. Ben has been lucky.’
Common symptoms of meningitis can include a fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and a fever with cold hands and feet.
For more information visit meningitisnow.org/