Posted by Laurie Hanniagan on 23 April 2012
As many of our members know all too well, the impact of meningitis and septicaemia can be devastating; even for those who survive the disease. Around a quarter of survivors face long-term, life-altering after-effects, throwing them and their families headlong into a lengthy process of rebuilding and adaptation that can seem impossibly daunting.
This week, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the London 2012 test event for the sport of Wheelchair Rugby to witness a prime example of just what can be achieved in the face of the terrible after-effects of meningitis and septicaemia. MRF member Aaron Phipps suffered from meningococcal septicaemia at the age of 15, resulting in below the knee amputations in both legs. Now, more than 10 years later, Aaron is one of the stars of a British team heading into this year’s London Paralympics with genuine medal aspirations
I was joined at the event by MRF Ambassador Chris Henry, herself a meningitis survivor. We were both immediately taken with the sport due to its dynamic, at times frenetic nature and the obvious skill and athleticism on display. More than this though, when we began to grasp the intricacies of the rules and tactics of the game, it was amazing how tense and exciting the matches became. Along with the rest of the spectators, Chris and I were on our feet as Aaron’s GB team defeated Australia with a point scored in the last seconds of extra time.
Seeing members like Aaron achieving great things despite lasting effects of meningitis is a real inspiration to those of us working at MRF – and, I hope, to anyone who finds themselves in the midst of an arduous recovery. However, it is not just the so-called ‘success stories’ that are inspirational. Working on the helpline, I regularly speak to people in all stages of this process and their courage and determination never ceases to amaze me.
All of us who know anything about meningitis and septicaemia want one thing: for this disease to be eradicated so that no family has to face its devastating impacts. However, while we pursue that goal every day by raising funds for research, we should also pay tribute to those families and individuals for whom any potential vaccines have already come too late, but who face their circumstances with such admirable strength every single day.
Helpline and Membership Officer