Viral Encephalitis: First Seven Months

"Errrrr, I really don’t feel well. Errrrr, early start but must make it up to Snow Roads Scenic Route – last day of construction, can’t miss that. And then back to the office for financial year end!"

Three days later, thanks to the smartness, persistence and care of my wife Lorna, I was in an ambulance heading north to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. And then at Raigmore within two hours of arriving I was being treated for half a dozen potential illnesses including viral encephalitis: two bits of brilliance in one day.

The next week is a blur of semi-consciousness, fantasy and nightmare. However, I do recall Dr ‘X’ infecting me with her optimism on my recovery. The following two weeks I was visited by more people than I remember knowing; all positive, all enthusiastic, all helping me more than they will ever know or understand. Then the stunning, almost literally ‘mind blowing’ news that the virus was gone and I could go home.

Pete recovering in hospital

Home, brilliant, exciting, joy beyond; then very quickly the harsh reality of the brain damage and the long, slow, challenging recovery. Without doubt Lorna and my daughters, Rachel and Jo, suffered, supported, encouraged and on occasion just put-up with the ‘new me’ in ways I’ll never really understand or be able to appreciate enough.

Kate cares. She cares about colleagues in a way not often found in HR and she really didn’t want me back at work but I saw it about my recovery not earning a wage so we agreed to try it. Weeks five and six ‘attending work’ were unbelievably challenging; minutes to read a three sentence email and more to reply…if I could find the password to access my computer. The support of my team of nine was brilliant. It was my family who suffered, again, an exhausted me returning home from work, irrational and negatively emotional.

But with time, challenge and the amazing support of family and friends it started to slowly get better and the challenges bigger. June; a presentation to a regional conference. October; an international conference and now in November on BBC Countryfile talking about…..the Snow Roads where it all started. All far from easy but all helping.

The best belief I chose to agree with came from another sufferer who said; ‘when it’s really bad just pause and look back because today’s badness will be much better than last weeks’. 

Seven months on I’m still far from ‘me’ but also know how unbelievably lucky I have been. Lucky; to get outstanding treatment from NHS, to have supporting friends and colleagues, but most of all to have a family that believes they can help the ‘new me’ get closer to the ‘old me’……without necessarily fully recovering that ironic, sarcastic sense of humour of old.

*Pete is a married father of two living in Highlands of Scotland. He is Head of Visitor Services for Cairngorms National Park Authority managing a team of nine that works with partners to make a visit to Britain’s largest National Park an outstanding experience.  

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