Brother and sister running in aid of MRF after miracle baby beat meningitis

Brother and sister running in aid of MRF after miracle baby beat meningitis

18 February 2014

A brother and sister team are taking on the Silverstone Half Marathon in celebration of  little Tyler (now 2) who contracted meningococcal septicaemia at 20 months old.

As a result Tyler's dad Tony Bowdler-Smith, 33, from Rotherham, and his aunty  Joanne Smith, 37, from Campton in Bedfordshire are running the half marathon together on 2 March in aid of MRF.

Tony and his wife Rachel were told they would never be able to conceive, and so when Tyler was born through a long process of IVF treatment they thought of him as their “miracle baby”. At 20 months Tyler contracted meningitis, and started a fight for his life.

Tony said: “We first noticed he was unwell as he was shivering and had a fever. We gave him some Calpol, but an hour later we checked on him and noticed bruises on his body. The world that I and my wife, Rachel, knew fell apart. Our beautiful little boy had contracted the devastating illness meningococcal septicaemia. We were completely helpless.”  Tyler was kept in an induced coma for seven days as doctors battled to save his life.

Tony’s sister Joanne supported him throughout the ordeal. “My first thought was that we would lose him, or he would need amputations. It was heartbreaking to see Tony and Rachel’s miracle baby puffed up and covered with wires; I tried to be strong for them but I took one look at Tyler and broke down” she said. “It was a painful reminder of how special he is,” she added.

For Tony, one of the hardest things to deal with was returning home with Tyler after a month in hospital: “Tyler suffered mild brain damage due to the infection, and he was like a newborn baby again. He had to learn everything from the beginning,” Tony said.

Although Tony is not a regular runner, the strength he has seen in his son is his inspiration to cross the finish line. “I keep thinking: if Tyler can fight like that for his life, I can certainly run a few miles for him” he said.

Joanne added, “This time last year we didn’t know if Tyler would wake up. It means the world to us to take on this challenge. Every time we take a photo of Tyler as he grows up our hearts melt – it’s such a simple thing but we are so lucky that he’s with us now. Every parent should be able to watch their child grow.”
Joanne has boosted her fundraising efforts with a raffle and a Valentine’s Day themed fundraiser at her work.

To support Tony and Joanne go to:

Chris Head, Chief Executive of MRF said: “We are extremely grateful to Tony and Joanne for taking on the Silverstone Half Marathon and fundraising for Meningitis Research Foundation. They know better than anyone how quickly this disease strikes and how babies are particularly at risk. We really do rely on voluntary donations to fund our vital work into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia. Every penny raised will make a huge difference and enable us to continue our work.”

If you would like to take part in a fundraising event for MRF, email: or visit the fundraising page

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

If you want to know more about this story call me on 0333 405 626251, out of office hours on 07875 498047 or email me