Disease victim who didn’t fit the profile
CELEBRITY interior stylist Dianne Leybourne doesn't fit the profile of a typical victim of meningococcal disease.
Most who contract the deadly infection, which occurs when bacteria invades the body after transferral through kissing, coughing or sneezing, are under the age of 20.
Mrs Leybourne, of Brisbane's western suburbs, is 53, and incredibly lucky to be alive.
She credits The Courier-Mail's recent campaign for increased funding of vaccines against meningococcal - which kills up to 10 per cent of sufferers and maims one-third - with helping save her.
Mrs Leybourne, whose Botticelli House décor business has appeared on reality TV show House Rules, began feeling unwell around 4pm on Sunday, November 4, after returning from the Jacaranda Festival in Grafton, northern NSW.
"It started with a high fever and by 6pm I had a headache worse than any migraine and by 8pm I was vomiting uncontrollably so called an ambulance to the Wesley Hospital," she said.
"The emergency staff thought I might have had heatstroke or a virus.
"A doctor did ask me if I had neck stiffness (a tell-tale sign of meningococcal) but I said no because I thought my neck was just sore from all the vomiting.
"They gave me morphine for the pain, drugs to stop the vomiting and a few litres of IV fluid and sent me home around 1am."
The next morning, after a listless night and with her head "feeling like it was going to explode", Mrs Leybourne could barely move her neck and noticed a huge blister on her finger and one under her right breast.
"I knew about meningococcal because of the media coverage, so I was pretty sure I had it," she said.
"Around 11am my sister took me to my GP who immediately called the ambulance.
"It took a while for them to stabilise me because I'd started deteriorating rapidly, vomiting again, sweating profusely, slurring my words - I felt like I was about to cark it."
Mrs Leybourne arrived at the Wesley around 1pm and describes the next five hours as "a blur".
"I got to the point where I didn't care if I died. I just wanted someone to knock me out and stop the pain," she said.
After a series of tests, including an MRI, chest X-ray and rapid influenza test, a lumbar puncture to check her cerebrospinal fluid was carried out just before 6pm - 26 hours after she first felt unwell.
"I remember very little, but when someone saw the fluid, they said, 'Oh my god, it's cloudy', and that means infection, and I looked at all of their faces and I knew they knew," she said.
Mrs Leybourne was given two IV streams of antibiotics and remained in hospital for seven days.
"They'd never seen anyone my age with meningococcal; from the nurses to the pathologists, there was not one person who didn't think I was an oddity; everyone was amazed," she said.
Almost two weeks after her ordeal, Mrs Leybourne remains exhausted.
When strong enough, she will get vaccinated against all five strains of the disease, including B which she contracted, and A, C, W and Y.
Mrs Leybourne is one of 49 cases of meningococcal recorded in Queensland this year.
Clayfield student Zoe McGinty, 20, died of the W strain in September last year, within 16 hours of feeling sick.
Sunshine Coast boy Finn Smith, 6, is a quadruple amputee after being struck down with B in 2013.
Following the Courier-Mail campaign, the Federal Government announced free ACWY vaccines for 14-19 year olds from next April. The jab is also free for one-year-olds.
The Queensland Government, which can act independently to fund vaccines, has refused to fund the two-jab B procedure, costing upwards of $250.
Meningococcal is on the rise. In 2017 there were 382 cases reported compared to 252 in 2016 and 182 in 2015.
Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, drowsiness, muscle pain, neck stiffness and a rash which may start as a spot or blister and develop into purple bruising.