Like a lot of 21-year-olds, Jennifer Gray was feeling a little rough after a night out partying with friends. According to her mother, the University of West Scotland student woke up the Sunday after a Saturday night on the town with a persistent sore throat, cold-like symptoms, sore joints, nausea and a headache.
Just another case of too many G & Ts, right?
But throughout the day, her symptoms persisted and got worse, prompting her to call her parents and later, to go to the hospital. That night Gray went into a coma and passed away. After running a series of tests, doctors concluded that Gray had been suffering from bacterial meningitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe bacterial meningitis as “very serious” and potentially deadly, saying “death can occur in as little as a few hours.”
While occurrences of bacterial meningitis have decreased in the last 10 years, the spread has long been linked to college campuses due to the community setting and close quarters among students. But another issue is how similar the signs and symptoms are to a hangover.
“Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck,” the CDC describes. “There are often additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light) and altered mental status (confusion). The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure.”
While doctors admit that in Gray’s case, the symptoms moved extremely quickly, being aware of what to look for can help save a life.
By sharing their story, Gray’s parents are hoping to spread awareness about this frightening disease.
“Meningitis struck my family. It came for us like a bolt from the blue,” Edwina Gray tells the Daily Record. “It is the worst possible thing to happen to someone who has an only child. Now I’ll never be a gran. I selfishly think about that. I’ll never see her married. Maybe she was never going to be married because we didn’t get to see what the future held.
“That opportunity is gone.”
In order to prevent the submission of meningitis, the CDC recommends parents adhere to the full vaccine schedule recommended by their local health authority. In addition, keeping your immune system strong can be vital in building up a defense against the disease.
“Maintaining healthy habits, like not smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest, and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help. This is especially important for young babies, older adults and people with weak immune systems, since they are at increased risk for serious disease.”