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Meningitis survivor set to run the toughest footrace on the planet

28 Mar 2018
Meningitis survivor set to run the toughest footrace on the planet

A man who survived meningitis when he was a teenager is set to run the toughest footrace on the planet to raise funds for Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).

39 year old Stuart Wells from Westerham, Kent, is running the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Dessert, starting on Friday 6 April.

Stuart explained, “I want to raise money for this cause because I know how deadly this disease can be. I was a first year student at Loughborough University in 1997 when I became seriously unwell. I’d been to visit my girlfriend Jo - now my wife - who was studying at the University of Southampton. Southampton had a mini outbreak of meningitis which was all over the news.

“Two days later, back at Loughborough, I woke up in my dorm at about 3am feeling awful. I had a really stiff neck and I was shivering cold even with loads of layers on. I got out of bed and walked to the medical centre on campus. I saw a nurse who gave me the once over and sent me back to bed.

Luckily, I then made a decision that saved my life. I left my door open so my friends next door could see I was unwell when they woke up.

“By morning I was being sick, felt very dizzy and I must have been semi unconscious. One of my best friends, Charlie, came to get me for breakfast and lectures. Charlie saw I was really unwell and pretty much carried me back to the medical centre.

“As soon as I got there the doctor gave me a shot of penicillin and then sent me off in an ambulance to Leicester Royal Infirmary. I was taken into intensive care and my parents were called to come up from Kent.

“It turned out I had meningococcal septicaemia, and the septicaemia was beginning to show in my left index finger which had gone all black." - Stuart Wells

“It turned out I had meningococcal septicaemia, and the septicaemia was beginning to show in my left index finger which had gone all black. Luckily I started to respond to the medication and I spent a week in hospital recovering. The doctors said I was incredibly lucky, two hours later and it would have been too late. While I have made a full recovery, trying to concentrate on my studies in the few years after was really hard, I just couldn't retain any information.

“Since then I’ve met another family affected by the disease. Natalie and Mark King sadly lost their baby boy Myles to meningococcal septicaemia when he was just seven weeks old. I’ve taken on this massive challenge because I want to raise funds so that MRF can keep supporting families like Myles’. There is no doubt, this is going to be the challenge of my life.” 

The Marathon Des Sables is described as the toughest footrace on the planet and involves running 150 miles in just six days across the Sahara Desert. This is the equivalent of five and a half regular marathons in total. Stuart will endure up to 50 degree heat, and will run over sand dunes and steep hills, running on uneven, rocky, ground. He’ll be carrying all his food and equipment in his backpack and trying to avoid snakes along the way.

Stuart is hoping to raise £15,000 and online donations can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mdsstuartwells

"Any donations people can make will help us enormously with our vital work including our research, awareness and support programmes.” - Rob Dawson, MRF

Rob Dawson, Director of Support at MRF said “We’re so grateful to Stuart for taking on this immense challenge and we wish him good luck. Any donations people can make will help us enormously with our vital work including our research, awareness and support programmes.”

Stuart’s video about Myles King’s story​
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Media contact
Holly Edwards - Communications Manager
Tel: 07875 498 047
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