A sleepy 19-year-old student thought she had Covid until mom recognized symptoms of a deadly disease

Alice Jenkins, 19, thought she had a coronavirus that went around her college halls – but when she FaceTimed her mom about her unusual symptoms, she was ordered to dial 999.

Alice Jenkins thought she had Covid, but it turned out to be meningitis
Alice Jenkins thought she had Covid, but it turned out to be meningitis

A college student thought she had COVID – but it did prove deadly meningitis.

Alice Jenkins, 19, woke up on May 18 with sore limbs and temperature, and assumed she had coronavirus for her roommates had it the week before.

The students at the University of Edinburgh planned an explosion after exams were over and were supposed to be going to a club that night, but Alice spent the whole day sleeping instead.

She finally FaceTimed her mother Sarah, 58, complaining that she felt bad.

Alice, from Esher, Surrey, thought the muscle soreness was because she had fallen while playing netball a few days earlier, but when she woke up from a nap, she dripped from sweat and had a rash.

Mother-in-law Sarah told her to do a “tumbler test” – pressing a glass against the eruption to see if it had disappeared. When she didn’t, she told Alice to dial 999.

Sarah, who works as a magistrate, was found out about the symptoms of meningitis because a neighbor’s daughter died of it at the age of 14.

When Alice awoke from her slumber she dripped with sweat and had a rash


Courtesy Alice Jenkins / SWNS)

An eruption appeared on her body


Courtesy Alice Jenkins / SWNS)

Her quick thinking meant Alice studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics [PPE]was able to receive treatment immediately, which meant she suffered no lasting damage – unlike many young people who may end up with hearing loss, paralysis or brain damage from the disease.

Alice said she was embarrassed to call 999 and a friend called for her.

She was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where she became so ill that she was unconscious – and says she thinks the experience was more critical for other people because she can barely remember it.

Within 24 hours she was aware of doctors around her talking about paralysis, but both parents rushed to be with her.

On May 19, she was taken to the infectious disease unit at West General Hospital, which she described as being from an American Horror Story.

She was discharged on May 24 and said she experienced a slight headache later, and will need a hearing test in a month.

Alice in hospital with her dad Richard


Courtesy Alice Jenkins / SWNS)

Alice with her mother Sarah


Courtesy Alice Jenkins / SWNS)

Alice is now on holiday in Croatia and says she believes her mother’s quick thinking saved her life.

Alice and her mom now want to make other young people aware of the risks of the deadly disease that Alice caught four months after her vaccination expired and which is particularly affecting teens.

“If I hadn’t had the rash, I wouldn’t have gone to a hospital, I just had sore limbs and temperature,” she said.

“The week before my roommates had Covid, the typical symptoms of meningitis like a stiff neck and illness didn’t start until I was in the hospital.

“When I went to the hospital, they gave me antibiotics, steroids and antiviruses, without knowing what it was.

“I was really scared to go to A&E, I woke up that night with a rash and Facetimed my mom said ‘phone 999’.

“I was saying ‘I don’t want to,’ but a friend did it for me.”

Kirstin Malcolm, 19, a friend from home, went to the hospital to keep Alice company and kept in touch with her parents, later bringing her a packed bag when they discovered she would stay inside.

Kirstin wasn’t too concerned that Alice was tired after a hectic week of pubs, clubs and shopping, but was worried when she got a text saying “I’m in A&E lol”.

She was holding a sick bowl for her friend who was vomiting “black colored bile” and seemed only to be able to communicate by blinking, before being offered to the Emergency Medical Unit.

Alice added: “It was probably easier for me because I didn’t know what was going on.

“I could not Google so I didn’t know how dangerous it was. ”

A woodpecker test diagnosed meningococcal group B, against which Alice was vaccinated when she was about 14 years old.

She urged other young people to check if their vaccinations had expired and to order a boost if they had, as hers ended in January.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain that can be spread by kissing, sneezing and coughing – although Alice told Public Health Scotland that she had no idea where she might get it.

No one else in her halls or that she knows got sick of it, but she described her friends ‘parents’ reaction as “petrified” when they found out about it.

She said: “I didn’t have a headache until I went to the hospital, or had a stiff neck, or vomited.

“When they stabbed me, they said I could be paralyzed or get sepsis, or lose my fingers or toes, or have a hearing loss or brain injury.

Alice, 19, woke up one morning with sore limbs and temperature


Courtesy Alice Jenkins / SWNS)

“They had to keep me away from people because meningitis is contagious, it was pretty lonely but I had a Percy Pig toy with me.

“Because I slept so much I was less lonely.”

Her father Richard, 58, shortened cycling in Italy to visit her and her mother received the first train to Edinburgh from Surrey.

Alice said: “I haven’t even kissed anyone – but I’m thankful it didn’t happen during the holidays.

“I was planning to go to Marbella but that was canceled but the doctors didn’t think I would be well enough to go to Croatia either.

“It’s scary – I was planning to go to a club on Wednesday but I woke up and it didn’t feel so good, and in five hours I was in the hospital.

“We are more aware as a family because we know someone who died because of it, but we didn’t know that vaccination is expiring.

“My chances were one in 10, but I feel right now.”

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