TV presenter Seema Jaswal's meningitis horror as medics thought she'd taken DRUGS


Presenter Seema Jaswal is a familiar face to millions of sports fans worldwide.

She fronts coverage for the Premier League and is currently a TV host at the Cricket World Cup.

But one night as a ­teenager, she felt as though she had been on the wrong end of a fight as a ­virulent form of meningitis knocked her ­unconscious.

And she believes her love of sport helped keep her alive.

“It was only my fitness and my mum’s quick reactions that saved me from suffering lasting brain injury or losing a limb – or, and I dread to think about it – losing my life,” says the 34-year-old.

Seema Jaswal campaigns for better knowledge and information about meningitis to help others avoid what she went through

 

“It’s realising how lucky I am to have survived and having the life and career I have that makes me want to raise awareness for other young people and their parents.

“Eighteen years on, what happened that night is with me every day – and just talking about it makes my mum and dad very emotional.”

Seema, from West London, was 16 and in her first year of A levels when illness struck.

“Life was busy. Sport was a big part of it so when I wasn’t studying I’d be on the tennis court, playing and coaching, playing netball or at my dance class, “ she says.

“I also had a part-time job in a coffee shop because I wanted to save up for a gap year in Mexico.”

There was no time for being ill, but she could do nothing about what happened on April 16, 2001.

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Seema was working at the coffee shop. “I got a really bad headache around midday and it wouldn’t go,” she recalls. “I just thought I was going down with a cold or flu.

“I took a couple of painkillers. I got home at around 7pm and lay on the sofa, but my head was still pounding, and I couldn’t sleep so I went to bed. In the middle of the night my mum came to check on me.

“She was so worried she called the doctor who thought it could be flu and gave me paracetamol.

“But after that I threw up – and it was bile, one of the signs of meningitis. My neck started to hurt, and I couldn’t bear the light.”

As Seema began to lose consciousness, her mum, realising what the symptoms were, called an ambulance – but what happened next stunned the family.

“The paramedics took one look at me and decided I’d taken drugs.

“They apparently dragged me to the ambulance with little sympathy. I don’t want to be critical – it was a long time ago and I’m sure things are different now.”

By the time Seema reached hospital she was in coma.

 

She woke up in the middle of a lumbar ­puncture to test for bacteria, which was frightening and “bloody painful”.

She says: “I had no idea what was going on. My parents were told to prepare for the worst and that they might have to put me on a life support machine.”

Blood tests and a brain scan confirmed Seema had bacterial meningitis B, caught just before it had turned to septicaemia.

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Seema spent 10 days in Kingston Hospital, Surrey, on intravenous antibiotics before she was well enough to go home.

“It was terrifying, I was so weak and I lost loads of weight. It took months to get back to full fitness and the doctors told me if I wasn’t so sporty the outcome could have been very different.

“There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it – there was no vaccine back then – I’m extremely lucky to have not suffered lasting damage.

“I had a neighbour who was blind and walked with a limp and found out later he’d had meningitis, so it was a constant reminder of how fortunate I was to be fit and healthy.”

Seema is supporting a campaign by Meningitis Now to make young people and parents aware of the symptoms, urging them to get ­vaccinated.

“Meningitis changed me. I embrace life, and there are many times when I remind myself how lucky I am to be here,” she smiles.

“Meningitis made me value everything more: my life, my career and the people I love.

“And it’s made me want to do everything I can to make sure others don’t go through what me and my family did.”

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