30 November 2019

Saracens rugby star Rosie Galligan talks about her meningitis nightmare on the day she returns to Premier 15s action

Saracens' Rosie Galligan takes to the pitch against Wasps today just two months after a terrifying ordeal with meningitis.

Aged just 21 and in peak physical fitness, it was a world-turning moment when she suddenly fell ill and was rushed to hospiital.

Rosie spoke to Newschain about the moment the illness struck, her struggles on the road to recovery and her relentless determination to return to the pitch.

Rosie is keen to get back on the pitch and prove her fitness

The onset of meningitis was sudden and without warning.

"I was just sat on the sofa the night before a game on Sunday 29th September. It hit ten on the dot and all of a sudden I felt really heavy.

"My legs started feeling agitated and shaking by themselves. Then I had to run to the bathroom because I was throwing up and I lost ability to weight bear and had no sensation in my legs. I was so confused and scared," she said.

The next morning, she had developed an angry rash and after calling 111 was rushed to hospital where she remained in an isolation ward for ten days.

Rosie's condition was highly contagious and required her to wear protective clothing when she left her room

Ironically, Rosie's most vivid memory of that day is not the rapid deterioration of her health but the NHS food living up to its less-than-complimentary reviews.

"It came, I looked at it and looked at the nurse and just said 'no way am I eating that,' and from then on I had baked potatoes for every meal!"

Rosie found herself in a hugely deteriorated physical state: "I’d lost all my muscle mass and couldn’t even go on my tippy toes. I was told by the doctor that my muscle mass had gone back to the same as a seven-year-old.

"I'd lost all sensation and ability to weight bear in my legs so that was physically painful but it was also really difficult not knowing what was going to happen."

The road to recovery was a long process for the determined England lock who admitted she found it difficult starting her recovery so slowly.

"A week after getting out I was allowed to start with a six-minute really slow bike which absolutely killed me off. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I felt so weak when I'd been an international player before that but everyone was telling me I had to pace myself."

She was full of praise for her doctor and the Saracens physio in helping her through the potentially fatal meningitis B strain, but admits it has been a long road that has not been easy physically or mentally.

"I spoke to my doctor and our physio every day," she said.

 "We made a WhatsApp chat and everything and they stayed in contact with me throughout the whole process. They were truly amazing."

She admits that the slow pace started to drag her mood down but a focus on the future was integral to ploughing on.

"I had a few days when I really struggled to train and just hit a wall mentally. That was the hardest thing for me - I’d gone from being this really fit young rugby player to being bed-bound and I just felt like I’d lost all of what I was working towards in life.

" I just want to prove to myself that I can get back to it and make them all proud of me for coming out of it stronger than when I went into it.

Rosie remains positive but also realistic over the future of her international rugby career, saying: "I want to try and get fit enough to be in contention for the Six Nations but at the same time my goal is to work on myself and get myself in peak condition to play and retain my starting position in the Prem."

Rosie Galligan made her international debut in the 2019 Six Nations

That starts today as Rosie returns to the action, hoping to prove her strength for everyone who's supported her. 

"I want to do them all proud and help deliver the win."

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