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Meningococcal disease survivor given second chance

Meningococcal disease survivor given second chance at life

March 29 last year started as an ordinary day for Adam Mist, now 19. It’s a day he will never forget. He was washing his car at 11am, had a severe headache by 2pm, was in intensive care by 4pm and put on life support at 5.30pm – a victim of meningococcal disease.

Fortunately for Adam and his family, he survived to talk about it, albeit 20kg lighter than before and with a greater appreciation of what life has to offer. It has made such a mark that his mum, Adrienne, a former nurse, is now working with one of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board’s immunisation teams.

She says she would encourage any parent to talk to their teenagers about getting the immunisation, rather than suffer the way her family did.

“We watched our son almost dying in front of us and there was nothing we could do. As a parent, you don’t want to go through it.”

Adam’s not sure where he caught the meningitis but drink or food sharing was the most likely culprit. He’d none of the usual symptoms such as a rash or sore neck but he does remember being a little light sensitive and the day he went to hospital the sore throat he’d had for over a week was gone. What he did have was copious vomiting and a splitting headache – something he describes as “a thousand times worse than your worst-ever hangover.”

Adrienne says he got really sick, really fast. “It was too intense – I knew something else was going on. The scariest thing was the speed that it occurred.” Adam says he just couldn’t function. “I thought I’d have a drink of water. It made it worse. I thought I’d go for a walk. It made it worse. Then I started to vomit and I couldn’t stop. It still got worse. Everything I did made it worse. Mum told me to go for a lie down but I couldn’t do it. It got worse again as soon as I hit the pillow. It just wouldn’t let up.”

His family took him to the Napier Medical Centre, where big brother James carried him inside. “I had no feeling in my legs. I was still vomiting in the exam room and they couldn’t find a line anywhere for blood. They sent me to hospital by ambulance and I was going in and out of a coma on the way. I remember them asking me to have a lumbar puncture and I said no way. But Mum pulled rank and said I had to. I rolled onto my side and went into a coma. That’s all I remember.”

This is where his Mum has to take over the story. “He’d been washing the car about 11 o’clock. He came in for something to eat but just played with it, which he never did. We’d gone out to a friend’s at Westshore at about 20 to one. He had a headache and went to lie down. I sent James in to see him and he was really white and crying. When he told me he couldn’t stand the pain, we took him to the medical centre.”

A trip to Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s emergency department via ambulance followed with Adam getting whiter and less coherent. They did the lumbar puncture test and at 3pm said they’d keep him overnight for observation. That was fortunate – for when he fell unconscious at 3.40pm he was put straight into intensive care.

“They were giving him drugs that were only lasting him four minutes and should have lasted a lot longer. His Dad had arrived and was helping me to hold him down. He was thrashing around with the head pain but he was still unconscious.”

Less than two hours after moving to intensive care Adam was put on life support (artificial coma) and his parents told he was likely to get worse before he got better. It was a long wait but Adam’s temperature finally dropped below 40 degrees the next afternoon so doctors took him off life support.

“That was the most wonderful thing. He just looked at me and said “Mum” straight away. He was very groggy but he was okay. He knew who we were.”

He was in the ward for a week, under isolation, and there were times when the headache grew intense again. Almost a year later he still wakes up with a headache but it’s getting better.

“I still get tired from time to time. I had about two or three months of feeling nauseous all the time and would have one spoonful to eat and be full.

“I definitely appreciate life more. If I see something I want to do, I do it. If I see something I want, I get it. I used to be fussy about petty little things. For a 19-year old I guess I see a bigger picture now.”

Meningococcal disease survivor, Adam Mist & his mother, Adrienne Mist, who is now part of the team working to protect Hawke’s Bay children and young people from meningococcal disease.

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