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Canterbury Christ Church student who contracted meningitis warns others about disease's dangers

"I was one of the lucky ones," says 20-year-old Lucy Watts, as she recovers at her home in Maidstone, after a frightening brush with meningitis.

The psychology student says she was feeling run down when she returned to Allington for some shifts at Larkfield Tesco in November.

Young woman tells KMTV about her health scare

But her cold like symptoms soon took a nasty turn - in the space of 17 hours she went from being fine to violently sick, suffering migraines and fading in and out of consciousness.

The former Invicta Grammar pupil said: “I thought I was coming down with something like the flu.

"Then I became really nauseous and eventually ended up unconscious in the toilet.

“By the time I woke up I didn’t feel any better, I’d come out in a rash on my wrists, chest and face so I got my nan to come and help.”

Lucy Watts, 20, was rushed to hospital after she woke up with a rash
Lucy Watts, 20, was rushed to hospital after she woke up with a rash

Lucy’s nan Jackie used the tried and tested glass technique against Lucy’s skin and her rashes still appeared faintly.

A local pharmacist then recommended Miss Watts get to A&E.

By the time her mum came home the rash had started to spread and the family phoned for an ambulance.

The second year Canterbury Christ Church student said: “The ambulance arrived inside four minutes. I was pumped full of my first lot of IV antibiotics and blue lighted to Maidstone Hospital.”

Lucy spent her first day in resus, followed by five days under quarantine to stop the highly infectious disease spreading.

She continued: “I spent most of the days I was there hooked up to fluids and antibiotics and had what felt like 1,001 blood tests.”

Students are one of the groups most at risk of contracting Meningitis B
Students are one of the groups most at risk of contracting Meningitis B

Eventually Lucy was diagnosed with Meningitis B and sent home where nurses continued to treat her with intravenous antibiotics for another five days.

Despite having "every symptom under the sun", as Lucy puts it, the student says she would never have called for help had she been alone.

She said: “It’s crazy to think but had I not gone home for work the level of response would have been so different.

“I love my housemates but they would have thought the same as me and would have left me to sleep it off.

“I certainly wouldn’t have phoned an ambulance myself.”

Between 400 and 1,200 people get Meningitis B in the UK every year, it’s estimated to kill 10% of those who contract it.

Lucy had to be put in a quarantine ward at Maidstone Hospital while she recovered
Lucy had to be put in a quarantine ward at Maidstone Hospital while she recovered

One in every two or three people who survive it will live with a major complication afterwards.

These can include amputations to stop the spread of the disease as well as hearing loss, seizures, and behavioural problems.

Aside from some suffering from confusion as she recovered, the student seems to have miraculously dodged any long-term complications.

Miss Watts, from London Road, explained: “What’s shocking is I was vaccinated against the strain I had.

“The vaccination is supposed to work until your immune system is strong enough to fight for itself, so either my immune system is rubbish or it wore off.

“The bacteria could have slightly changed, people from abroad could have brought a different strand over.

Lucy Watts
Lucy Watts

“A lot of people carry the disease in the back of the throat but don’t realise it. I could have caught it from someone coughing, or sharing a drink.”

According to the NHS, teenagers and young adults are among the most at risk of contracting meningitis, along with babies, young children, and the elderly.

For students, the likelihood of contracting it comes from the sheer amount of people they come into contact with on a daily basis, whether that’s at lectures, living in halls, or nights out.

Having returned to her student digs in St Martin’s Terrace in Canterbury, Lucy is trying to spread awareness of the disease among her fellow students.

She added: “If I had not come home for work, and those around me had not responded so quickly the outcome could have been a lot worse.

"I may have paid a visit to ICU, potentially lost limbs or even died.

"You always think that it will never happen to you... that's what I always thought, along with 'it's okay I've been vaccinated'..."

“I was one of the lucky ones. After six weeks off work, I’m back raring to go with only a banging headache, fatigue and confusion to try and throw me off, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t bad at all.

“Learn the signs, learn the symptoms because you never know you may just save a life.

“You always think that it will never happen to you. That’s what I always thought, along with 'it's okay I've been vaccinated’.

“But it might happen, if not to you then a friend.”

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