In 1995, Kathryn was shaken to the core of her existence with the sudden death of her 19-year-old son Michael from meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.
Michael wasn't feeling well on Friday. Four days later, he died. During those sleepless days and nights, Kathryn knew her son had meningitis but was shocked that there was so little information about it.
When she walked away from the hospital after his death, Kathryn wanted to know why Michael had died, why so much medical attention could do so little, why meningitis couldn't be stopped, how it could be prevented. But no one could answer her questions.
“I felt there was no support, no-one to give me the help and information I wanted and needed,” she said. “I had to go through this process by myself.”
In memory of Michael, friends and family wanted to make donations for meningitis research. That's when Kathryn discovered there was nowhere to direct these funds. She put them into a trust, believing that some day meningitis would get more attention.
Two years later, during an outbreak of meningitis in her local community, reporters called Kathryn for her perspective. That’s when she decided it was the right time to begin putting together the infrastructure of what was to become the Meningitis Foundation of Canada. It also helped put her in touch with people who had experienced meningitis in their own lives.
“I was touched and encouraged by the people that I had come in contact with who had experienced meningitis,” she said. “One man had lost his daughter and had been raising funds for research at Sunnybrook (Health Sciences Centre) in Toronto. Another had lost his son just a week before Michael died.”
Many of these people also saw the need for a national organisation and an executive core started meeting in Kathryn's kitchen. Since then, the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada has become an advocate for research and vaccination, a source of information, a focus for donation and funding, and a support for people who have experienced meningitis in their own lives. They are very excited about the vaccines that are now available, and hopeful that we will see an end to this insidious disease in our lifetime.