In October 1996, at the age of 43, I contracted meningitis following insertion of a lumbar peritoneal shunt. Cultures were done but initially the results were inconclusive but eventually grew mycobacterium smegamatis (a "weak cousin" to the tuberculosis organism). Little was known with respect to this type of bacterial meningitis and we were advised that there were very few reported cases worldwide and no reports of it invading the spinal cord as it did in my case, causing paralysis.
Between October 1996 and May 1997 I was in and out of hospital and have very little memory of the events between December 1996 and May 1997. Different drug regimes were tried with different results. I experienced a seizure, developed a maculopapular rash and was subsequently put on predisone before drugs were reintroduced.
In May 1997, a meningial biopsy was carried out and I was started on a regime of various drugs remaining in hospital until August 1997. At that time, I was sent to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton to undergo rehabilitation, having lost the use of my legs and the ability to do the most basic of things like sitting or dressing myself. I was discharged from the Glenrose in October 1997 and was able to go home, although in a wheelchair.
The following months I attended physiotherapy daily and in June of 1998 started walking with the use of a cane, graduating to walking on my own later that summer.
Although I have regained the use of my legs, I have had to cope with the loss of my hearing (attributed to one of the drugs used to treat the meningitis), as well as ongoing problems with balance, headaches, incontinence and fatigue. The meningitis destroyed a part of my life which I will never get back, I believe I am lucky to be alive and for that I have to thank my family and the doctors, all of whom worked so hard to make me well.