12 Days of Christmas

Our '12 Days of Christmas' campaign is an urgent call to support twelve days of action to prevent death and disability from meningitis, as cases rise in the winter months.

In winter, there are three times more cases of bacterial meningitis than in summer months. Meningitis is difficult to detect, can happen at any age, and can kill - or cause serious impairments - in hours. We are asking for your support this Christmas to defeat this disease for good.


On Matthew’s first Christmas he was only 7 months old.  He woke early and vomited all day, and, as he wasn’t himself, his parents rang the NHS helpline. They decided to give paracetamol and monitor him.  On Boxing Day, Mark and Susan were so worried they took him to hospital.  Susan says: “Matthew's meningitis was picked up on the consultant’s ward rounds at approximately 8am on Boxing Day as he had a bulging fontanelle and was panting. I was really scared because I thought we were going to lose him. His eyes started to roll around when they were trying to put a cannula in his hand and he had to be given oxygen.”

“We were stunned when the results came back from the lumbar puncture that he had pneumococcal meningitis. How could this be happening to our gorgeous boy? How would we tell his big sister Jessica, who was five at the time? Separately both my husband and I thought about the meningitis stories that we'd heard about, but we kept our thoughts to ourselves for the sake of our daughter.  We were able to go home after one week. The relief of hearing that we could go home was overwhelming, I just broke down and sobbed.”

Luckily, Matthew survived and he is now ten years old, but the family’s experience cast a shadow over the subsequent Christmases:  Susan says: “We have a happy ending to our story, but it was a very difficult time for us as a family. We found Christmas 2010 difficult as we were surprised at how raw our memories were.  As time goes on it gets better, but as parents we now feel more edgy in times of illness for both of our children.  I'm not sure if we saved our son's life or not, but we trusted our instincts and got our son to hospital quickly.  Please do be aware of meningitis signs and symptoms, and if you can this Christmas donate to support MRF’s work on meningitis.org.”


Shirali Patel, then a first year medical student at Cambridge, became rapidly ill when she returned home at the start of the Christmas holidays. On the Monday before Christmas she woke up suddenly with an inflamed throat.  Her GP advised her to take paracetamol and monitor it but the next day she got a lot worse and became feverish.

Shirali said: “I was a first year medical student but even I did not know that my illness was about to become so life threatening. I rapidly declined. I couldn’t leave my room without a real struggle.  My brother got me to the GP again. Realising the seriousness of the situation the GP called an ambulance to get me straight to A&E and I got even worse on the way there. I was taken into the ICU where at first the doctors thought I might have leukaemia. Later, I was diagnosed with meningococcal W septicaemia (MenW).”

Shirali was critically ill and the doctors prepared her parents for the worst, telling them she had little chance of survival.  Shirali missed out on being immunised against MenW, despite being eligible, as she hadn’t been offered the MenACWY vaccine by her GP surgery: “If my brother had not been at home that day to take me to see a doctor I would not have made it. Thanks to the quick treatment I received I pulled through and I was able to leave hospital a month later. I had to defer university for a year while I got better but I feel very lucky that I have made a good recovery.”

“I’m supporting the launch of MRF’s new campaign as I want to help them raise awareness of signs and symptoms, it can make all the difference to save someone’s life.  If you can this Christmas, please donate to their 12 Days of Christmas Appeal.”


Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million). Thanks to your support, this research has:

  • Identified early signs of sepsis. Our research first identified the red flag early symptoms of meningococcal sepsis as being cold hands and feet, limb pain and pale or mottled skin.
  • Investigated the role of genetics in meningitis. Researchers have identified genes which appear to influence someone’s risk of getting meningitis. In the future this may help explain why only a small proportion of people are affected by the disease.
  • Driven the introduction of routine MenACWY vaccine for UK teenagers. MRF-Meningococcal Genome Library’1 commissioned in 2011 had its finest hour almost immediately, revealing a steep rise in MenW cases in England and Wales was driven by a particularly deadly strain of bacteria, originating from South America.
  • Improved meningitis recognition in babies. After MRF funded research discovered delays and variability in the treatment of bacterial meningitis in babies, a teaching package was developed to improve recognition and management, with great results.
...and much more. With your help, we can continue funding life saving research, and bring a world free from meningitis one step closer.

At Christmas, we remember.

We believe that nobody should be forgotten; especially at Christmas. We want to create a galaxy of stars in memory of every life that has been cruelly lost to meningitis. We need your help.

If you have lost a loved one to meningitis, please help us remember them by creating a Remembrance Star.

Your star will be sent to you to use however you would like, and included in a special Remembrance Gallery that we will share on Facebook on Christmas Day. Remembrance Stars help to remind us that lives lost to meningitis are not merely statistics. They were real people, with real feelings and real stories, taken too soon by this devastating disease. Make sure your loved one is remembered.

Please submit your star by December 16th, to ensure that it is ready in time for Christmas. If you have submitted a Remembrance Star in the past, please make sure to do so again this year.


Help us raise awareness by ordering a wide-range of free educational resources, such as leaflets and posters. Many of these are endorsed by professional medical organisations.

We can only send resources within the UK & Ireland at the moment, but please contact us if you are from another country on info@meningitis.org 


Adam is actively raising funds and awareness for MRF, and has recently just completed the Dublin, New York and Athens marathons in three weeks for MRF. Three years ago, he fell ill with meningitis and the road to recovery has been challenging – he never believed he would be able to run again, and feared the after effects of this deadly disease.

“The recovery from meningitis is a long one.  When I was finally released from hospital, I was so happy to be able to walk away from such a traumatic experience, I was thankful to every single family member, friend and medical staff member around me.  Many people, of all ages, do not come out as lucky as me and sadly many people succumb to meningitis. A common misconception about meningitis is that 'it's not meningitis unless there's a rash'... I once believed that myself, I know different now. I think it’s important to note that had it not been for my GPs awareness of meningitis, I would be in a very different position today.”

“Meningitis has left me with a number of awkward after effects that have made my personal and professional life slightly tricky at times, but one of the most important things I’ve learned from my experience is resilience. I've learned that resilience will get you through any situation no matter how tricky it can be.”

“Thanks to the outstanding work carried out by the likes of the Meningitis Research Foundation, I was lucky enough to pull through and walk out of hospital with minimal side effects.  That’s why I am supporting the launch of their Christmas fundraising appeal and awareness in Ireland, if you can this Christmas please donate to support their work.”


Almost nine years ago, when Jothi was only eighteen months old, he became very ill.  Jeff and his wife Bharathi had difficulties getting the correct diagnosis.  They had taken their baby son to the GP and hospital, then A&E.  Each time they were told that it was likely to be a virus and to bring him back if he wasn’t better in a few days. Jothi eventually vomited, developed a very high temperature, had a high-pitched cry, very cold feet and hands, so his parents took him to A&E but they were sent home again.

Despite that, Jeff and Bharathi trusted their instincts and they returned to the hospital in the middle of the night. Jeff says: “When we reached the hospital the doctors took one look at Jothi and all hell broke loose. There were lots of people around him and they asked us to move out of the way so they could treat him. More staff arrived and they worked urgently to save Jothi’s life which by now was hanging by a thread. He was then transferred in an ambulance to the Evelina Children’s hospital in London.  Jothi’s condition remained life threatening as he had multi-organ failure and severe sepsis but he fought his way through the crucial period and gradually started to improve.”

Jothi had been diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and sepsis. When he came out the hospital three weeks later, he had lost the ability to walk and could not even hold his head up. It took him several months to regain his strength and to re-learn to sit up, crawl and walk.

Initially Jothi seemed to make a remarkable recovery, but five years later his parents noticed he was limping and his legs were bending a little. It turned out that the meningitis and sepsis had damaged the growth plates in his knees and ankles that help the legs grow.  Jothi had two major surgeries that involved separately breaking both legs and placing them in a metal frame to straighten and lengthen them. Jothi is now ten years old and will need these operations on his legs and left thigh every two to three years until he stops growing.

Jeff says: “Meningitis is a life changer and life finisher. It moves quickly and can be difficult to detect with a devastating impact. The disease has changed our lives forever.  The leg breaking and stretching operations that Jothi has to undergo are hugely painful and stressful and significantly limit his mobility, his ability to go to school and activities with his friends. We have adapted our house, taken large amounts of time off work and for months on end, it completely dominates our life.” 

"MRF has provided us with valuable help, please support their 12 Days of Christmas campaign to help stop other families suffering from the vicious disease that is meningitis.”


Meningitis Awareness Week is an annual international event to raise awareness about meningitis. Every September, we focus on a different aspect of the disease.

  • 2017. In 2017, we held a week of raising awareness, and reducing the impact, of meningitis and septicaemia on young people. We had one shot to protect students and young adults. Thanks to our work, about 70,000 additional vaccinations took place from April to August 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. In universities where tailored materials mentioned local vaccine clinics, uptake increased to more than 70 per cent. The eligibility checker was visited by 15,922 people.

  • 2018. In 2018 we aimed to improve diagnosis of patients with bacterial meningitis and septicaemia with our Safety Netting campaign. We launched a new report, which found that lives could be saved if parents are given consistent, explicit advice about recognising meningitis and septicaemia (otherwise known as sepsis) from health professionals. We also launched our 'Safety Netting Hub' for parents concerned about an ill child.

  • 2019. This year, we focussed on support for people affected by meningitis. Our report found although many know that meningitis can kill, the majority don’t know that meningitis can leave survivors with severe and lifelong health consequences. We worked with nine people from across the UK and Ireland, to share their stories of how meningitis affected their life.​

We could not have done any of this without you. Your support is vital in funding Meningitis Awareness Week; please help us continue.


"On 23rd December 2014 my life changed forever in 3 minutes."

Di Spalding's husband, John, died of bacterial meningitis in December 2014. That Christmas was unimaginable for the Spalding family, as it is for so many families at this time of year. Our support team are here to provide support to anyone who is struggling with life after meningitis - but they can't be there without your donations.

Just £6 pays for a 30 minute call from a trained support officer. They listen to the issues faced by someone struggling with the impact of meningitis, and provide detailed information and support. Will you donate £6 today?


Over the Christmas season, cases of meningitis are three times higher than they are during summer. We want to make sure that we are always there for people impacted, or bereaved, by this terrible disease.

With Christmas now just three sleeps away, our Support Manager Cat Keeling has a special request.


Merry Christmas everyone!

Our Chief Executive, Vinny Smith, has a special message for all of our wonderful supporters this year (yes, we mean you!). We'd like to thank you all so much for the support you've shown us this year; it really does save lives.

Together, we'll defeat meningitis



At Christmas, we remember.

Every year, nearly 300,000 people die of meningitis. It can happen to any one, of any age, at any time - but over Christmas and in winter months in the UK, there are three times as many cases than in the summer.

We believe in a world where nobody dies due to a vaccine preventable illness. Through research, education, campaigns and support, we believe we can defeat meningitis by 2030. But we will need your help.

  • A donation of £5 a month ensures our support services will be there for 10 people affected by meningitis.

  • A donation of £8 a month gives 100 doctors the tools to accurately diagnose meningitis.

  • A donation of £10 a month alerts 6,000 students to the importance of life-saving vaccines.

This Christmas, please visit donate just £5 per month - or whatever you can afford - to bring us closer to a world free from meningitis. Thank you.

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Support our life saving work and help defeat meningitis for good.

We want a world that promises more for people and families at risk of meningitis and septicaemia, and for those already living with the after effects of the disease

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours - know the symptoms.
We've invested nearly £20 million into meningitis research since 1989. Now, we're looking back at our most incredible achievements so far.
Meningitis is a deadly and complicated disease - so is it actually possible to truly "defeat" it? Find out here.