Meningococcal Disease: Young Woman Nearly Lost Her Life To An Often-Fatal Infection She Thought Was Just The Flu

Date August 10, 2018

Young Sydney woman almost lost her life to an often-deadly infectious disease

Lily O’Connell, a 23-year-old student from Sydney, was celebrating Christmas with her family. She developed a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms the day before, but the young woman thought it was just the flu. Within hours, it became clear that it was much, much worse.

In the evening on Christmas Day, Lily’s condition spiraled down. She was vomiting and had neck pain. Then, a rash appeared on her face and spread very fast. Lily’s mother realized something was seriously wrong and called the doctor.

7 News Sydney / Twitter

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When they got to St. Vincent's Hospital, the nearest hospital to their home, doctors immediately started Lily on antibiotics. When they managed to stabilize her, Lily learned she got help just in time. She had contracted meningococcal W disease, which is often deadly. The woman told The Sydney Morning Herald:

I am just so lucky I lived three minutes away from the hospital because the doctors told me later that I was only about 30 minutes away from that being it for me.

7 News Sydney / Twitter

Meningococcal disease often causes permanent damage. Lily’s kidneys and adrenals failed, so she has been on dialysis. Her sister volunteered to donate her kidney, and she was a match, so Lily is now scheduled to undergo a kidney transplant.

Although Lily lost her kidneys to the disease, she considers herself lucky, as she knows it could have been much worse. She told 7 News Sydney:

I’ve spoken to people who had meningococcal, and I got out really lucky. I should’ve lost limbs, I should’ve lost my life, quite frankly, but I got out pretty lucky, to be honest.

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What is meningococcal disease, and what symptoms does it cause?

Meningococcal disease is a serious infectious disease caused by Meningococcus bacteria. There are several strains the infection, and the one Lily O’Connell had is the deadliest.

According to Meningococcal Australia, most people who contract the disease make full recovery. However, 1 in 10 of those infected die, and 1 in 5 patients suffer permanent damage, such as liver and kidney failure, loss of limbs, loss of sight and hearing, and learning difficulties.

The disease can affect the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and the blood (septicemia). Some people develop both meningitis and septicemia.

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Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis may include the following:

  • headache;
  • neck stiffness and pain;
  • fever;
  • fatigue;
  • sensitivity to light;
  • convulsions.

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Meningococcal septicemia may cause the following symptoms:

  • fatigue;
  • fever;
  • chills;
  • vomiting and diarrhea;
  • cold hands and feet;
  • severe aches or pains in the muscles, joints, chest, or belly;
  • a fast-spreading red or purple rash (a critical sign).

It’s easy to confuse symptoms of meningococcal disease with those of less serious infections, but the former is often deadly without timely treatment. If you or someone around you has these symptoms, don’t hesitate and get medical help right away.

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.