North-east student’s charity skydive to say thank you for meningitis recovery

Michaela Harmes (21) doing her skydive to raise funds for the charity Meningitis Now.
Michaela Harmes (21) doing her skydive to raise funds for the charity Meningitis Now.

A grateful student has taken on a skydive with three friends to say thank you for her recovery from meningitis.

Michaela Harmes (21), who is studying at Robert Gordon University, contracted the disease in June 2015 while working in Zante, but has thankfully recovered well.

Michaela Harmes (21), Lana Owen, Nicolle Peat and Kerin Marshall before doing a skydive to raise funds for the charity Meningitis Now.

Michaela Harmes (21), Lana Owen, Nicolle Peat and Kerin Marshall before doing a skydive to raise funds for the charity Meningitis Now.

She undertook the skydive with friends Kerin Marshall, Nicolle Peat and Lana Owen (all 20) to raise funds for charity Meningitis Now, who supported her throughout her ordeal.

“Meningitis Now has given me fantastic support and counselling,” Michaela said. ”Without the charity I’m not sure that I would be where I am right now.

“I’m in my second year, halfway through my degree to becoming a midwife – I am such a lucky girl.”

The four girls took to the sky and jumped out of a plane at 10,000ft. They all found the experience “amazing”.

Their efforts have raised £2111 for Meningitis Now’s lifesaving and life-changing work, carrying out research into the deadly disease, raising awareness and supporting those fighting back.

Lana chose to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.

In June 2015, Michaela set off for what she thought would be the summer of a lifetime working in Zante.

After a night working and clubbing she got to bed at around 6:30am.

“I woke up at 3pm and my whole body was in agony from head to toe, the pain was even in my fingers and toes,” Michaela said.

“I had an awful headache and I couldn’t even move. I knew that this could not be a hangover. Five hours passed and I wasn’t feeling any better.

“I phoned a medical centre – the language barrier made it difficult to explain how I was feeling and where I was. Luckily two medical staff came out to see me later that night.”

Michaela’s blood pressure was through the roof and as she tried to get up she fainted. The medical staff had to carry her downstairs.

“At the medical centre, all I can remember was that they put me on a drip and I was dipping in and out of consciousness, occasionally waking up to hear the music from the clubs on the strip.”

At 3am she was taken home and told to take paracetamol, drink plenty of water and given food to eat.

“At 5am I woke up still in incredible pain and I knew something wasn’t right. Thankfully I am a drama queen and it saved my life! I phoned the medical centre back and was adamant that I needed to go to hospital.”

The medical staff came back out and took Michaela to hospital.

“I began vomiting and couldn’t stay awake,” Michaela added. “I remember them inserting a needle into my back but not having a clue what was going on – in fact they were doing a lumbar puncture.

“At this point I couldn’t cope, I kept saying that I couldn’t do it, I was in too much pain. I even asked them if they could put me to sleep.”

Michaela was transferred from Zante to mainland Greece, as they could not treat her on the island, and her dad and mum and her partner flew out and joined her by her bedside.

“Without my family by my side I don’t know how I would have coped,” she said. “At the time I did not realise how ill I was. It was such a traumatising experience but I am an extremely lucky girl to be here to tell my story. If it wasn’t for my stubborn, drama queen attitude I probably would not have survived.

“I am ever so thankful for all the staff that helped me and, of course, my family who are amazing for putting up with me and being with me every step of the way.”

Amanda Harris, Scotland community fundraiser at Meningitis Now, said: “Thank you so much to Michaela and her friends for taking on this challenge.

“As a charity that receives no government funding we rely entirely on the generosity, energy and initiative of our supporters to raise the vital funds we need to carry out our lifesaving and life-changing work.

“Their efforts will make a real difference to those who are at risk from meningitis and those whose lives have already been changed forever because of it.”

Meningitis Now is working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need.

It does this by funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis, and rebuilding futures by providing dedicated support to people living with the impact of the disease.

For more information and to donate visit the Meningitis Now website