Posted by Kathleen Hawkins on 10 October 2011
My involvement in Meningitis Awareness Week began the week before when I had a phone interview with a journalist for the Daily Mail. This gave me an idea of the types of questions I would be asked by the media and I made sure my focus was on ‘Counting the Cost of Meningitis’ campaign and the need for a Men B vaccine. My mum also spoke to the journalist to give a parents’ perspective and added to the overall impact of the article. I was dreading having photos taken and felt very shy, especially when the photographer asked if I could wear a skirt, but I donned my Kate Bush inspired outfit with pride and went for photos in the park, embracing the people staring at me continually with the vague hope that they thought I was famous.
Following the frenzy of the Daily Mail article I publicised the campaign as much as I could, getting friends and family to sign the petition and posting numerous Awareness Week related ‘statuses’ on Facebook and Twitter!
Local media, in my parents’ area and in Leeds (where i’m at Uni) covered Awareness Week. My local paper The Retford Times wrote two excellent articles, one focusing on ‘my story’ and the other focusing entirely on meningitis and septicaemia and the positives a vaccination for Meningitis B could bring.
Back at Uni in Leeds I had an interview with ITV Calendar News. This was the first time I had been behind a camera and I was fairly apprehensive but the journalist who was interviewing me put me very much at ease and I almost (but not quite) forgot the camera was on me. This piece focused very much on students starting at university, which is where I contracted the disease and this is a very important focus group for me in raising awareness.
Thursday saw my most nerve-wracking media appearance for The Wright Stuff Extra (on Channel 5) with Gabby Logan. My mum came down to London with me where we stayed the night and travelled to the studio the next morning. I was really anxious as it was live television and I was aware that I may be asked questions that I didn’t really want to answer. They also asked me to take my other pair of legs with me to show the viewers. This is not something I have ever really done, even with some of my closest friends, however my decision to get involved with Awareness Week meant that I was happy to open up a piece of myself, and my experience which I had kept hidden previously.
My final interview was with BBC Radio Nottingham and they were great and were happy to mention the campaign as much as they could as well as hear about my experiences.
If you or your family has been affected by meningitis or septicaemia the best thing to do is speak out and raise awareness. In some ways Meningitis Awareness Week helped me too. I dealt with the after effects of this devastating disease, by choice, very privately, talking only to my parents and close friends and coming to terms with the changes in my life and the realisation of my own mortality which this disease brought on my own. The realisation that I could use my life-changing time to raise awareness was very empowering and I felt that by being honest and open about my experience people were truly stirred by my story into trying to get the vaccination introduced so others didn’t have to suffer.