Nick climbs high after meningitis battle

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After battling life-threatening meningitis Sheffield researcher Nick Penfold is raising awarenss of the disease. Catherine Scott reports.

Eleven years ago Nick Penfold was in an induced coma battling life-threatening meningitis.

His parents were worried the then 17 year old might not survive.

But he did and now the University of Sheffield researcher has climbed the three highest peaks in the country all within 36 hours raising £1,000 for Meningitis Now..

Nick, who is a post-doctoral research associate in chemistry, took part in Meningitis Now’s Three Peak challenge. The event took a group of supporters up Ben Nevis, Snowden, and Scafell Pike over the course of one weekend and Nick was joined on the adventure by younger sister Johanna.

Aged just 17, Nick had just finished his AS levels in June 2008 when he became severely ill at home with fever, muscle aches, and photosensitivity. He recalls that his parents returned home in the evening to find him in a “confused and semi-responsive” state – and immediately rang 999. He was living in Suffolk at the time and was taken to hospital in Bury St Edmunds with suspected meningitis.

Nick said he has no memory of what happened next but that his parents described the events that followed. “On arrival at the hospital, I was put into a medically induced coma and hooked up to a life support machine,” he said.

“My parents were told I had suspected meningococcal septicaemia and that I was critically ill. The doctors worked through the night to stabilise me and allow me to be transferred to a bigger hospital”.

The next 48 hours were incredibly stressful for Nick’s parents – who went through a “roller coaster of emotions not knowing what the future would hold”. But he improved enough for the coma to be reversed.

Nick’s recovery was rapid and just 47 days after leaving hospital he had tackled his “rehabilitation goal” of climbing Helvellyn in the Lake District, summiting via the famous Striding Edge and Swirral Edge routes.

A decade on, he still hadn’t got the climbing bug out of his system and so the Three Peaks challenge seemed like the perfect way to mark his long term recovery.

“It was one of the most difficult challenges that I have faced both in terms of its physicality and the mental determination required to succeed.”

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord; usually caused by bacteria or viruses.

Certain age groups are more susceptible - the under 5s are most at risk, particularly those under the age of one; teenagers and young adults and older adults, particularly those over 65.

Freephone 0808 80 10 388.