Today is World Meningitis Day – this is a Gazette Column special to mark the day…
This column is one I wrote for the Gloucestershire Gazette back in July 2013 about meningitis, how I survived it, and, crucially, how we should all be aware of the illness. When I wrote the column, the vaccine for the Meningitis B strain had not been given funding approval – now, I am pleased to say, it has. But that’s just one strain – there are many more, so the fight continues. If you read this, I hope it helps…
Gazette column 18th July, 2013
“I survived Meningitis – now it’s time to save others”
39 years ago I contracted Meningitis. I was a baby at the time, oblivious as I was then to the life-threatening situation I faced, unaware that the hospital room I slept in, cried in and was treated in for three weeks was there to protect me and others from the deadly virus. Back then, vaccination against Meningitis was non-existent. The development in medical science was burgeoning, but slow, and technological advancements were only just beginning to sprout.
But 39 years is a long time. And, wrinkles on my face aside, a lot as changed. For me, I was one of the lucky ones. First of all, I survived. I contracted, at 5 months old, one of the most deadly forms of Meningitis. If it wasn’t then for a concerned GP returning to our house, I suspect I probably wouldn’t be here telling you the tale today. I was fortunate in other ways, too. My hearing, sight, limbs – all of them were unchanged by the side affects of the virus, and, aside from my horrendous habit of falling asleep on the sofa, I am fully functioning.
So when I read last week that a mother from Wotton-under-Edge is campaigning for the NHS to adopt a life-saving Meningitis-B vaccine, I was both pleased and dismayed. Pleased because this mother – and thousands like her – never give up. Despite what she has been through, what she has lost, she is campaigning, tirelessly to make a change. My dismay, therefore, comes from the fact that in this day, in this age of modern society, it still takes people who have suffered to campaign for something that the government should be automatically adopting. The new vaccine championed by the campaign, is ground breaking. The founder of Bristol-based Meningitis UK, said, ‘In 30-years, this vaccine is the most significant development in the fight against the disease since I lost my son 30-years ago.’
We have ourselves, therefore, some options. First, support the campaign. Contact Meningitis charities, fundraise, help. I, for one, shall be setting up a direct debit. But then, go one step further: lobby. Lobby your MPs, contact as many people as possible and get the message out, get this vaccine funded on the NHS – your NHS. Because this vaccine can save lives. 39 years ago, as a child, I survived – now it’s time for the NHS to ensure the survival of all our children.
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