When fit, healthy outdoors enthusiast Jacob Gray began to feel ill, he thought he just had a bad cold.
But by the time the 21-year-old sought medical advice, his body had been taken over by infection, and he was put into a 15-day coma after stumbling out of an ambulance and into A&E.
Shortly after he was put on life support and had two blood transfusions.
His chances of survival were rated at less than 10 per cent, and he was expected to mentally disabled even if he survived. Against all odds, and after saying goodbye to his loved ones, Jacob pulled through.
But weeks in hospital turned to months, and Jacob lost around 140lbs and had more than 19 operations as surgeons battled to save his badly damaged legs, which were eventually amputated.
“We never thought it was meningitis initially,” said Jacob, who is now 25 and works as an emergency planner at Royal Preston Hospital.
A lot of people say if you get the rash get to A&E, but I only got it when I was in A&E.
“There’s no one symptom that defines meningitis. A lot of people say if you get the rash get to A&E, but I only got it when I was in A&E.”
Jacob, who lives in Poulton, near Blackpool, is now working with charity Meningitis Now, which recently issued a warning to other parents to ensure their children take up a lifesaving vaccine against the disease.
Meningitis Now’s campaign coincides with a campaign by Public Health England to increase vaccination among young people.
The Meningitis ACWY vaccine has been offered to all 17 and 18-year-olds and all university entrants, aged 19-25, free on the NHS since August 2015, to combat the rise in cases in adolescents. But they continue to increase in England, from 30 in 2011/12 to 210 last year (2015/16), up from 176 the previous year.
Uptake of the vaccine across the country remains stubbornly low at about one-third of those eligible.
Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive at Meningitis Now, said: “Teenagers are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population.
“Over 17 per cent of all cases of Men W occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.
“We remain deeply concerned about the low level of vaccine uptake.”