Ryan Ward, 25, will take on the Virgin London Marathon this weekend (3rd October) to raise funds for Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) in memory of his brother Graham Ward, who died of the disease aged 20 in November 2019. Ryan and his sister Carina have already raised over £20,000 for the charity this year by completing several other running events, and are determined to continue raising life-saving funds for years to come.
“My parents rang at midnight,” said Ryan Ward, remembering the awful day that his brother, Graham, died of meningitis. “My friend drove me straight down to Bath, where Graham and my sister Carina were both students at university. I was able to see him and talk to him whilst he was still alive, but it all happened so fast.”
20-year-old Graham Ward, who was in his final year of studying Business and Management at Bath Spa University, began complaining of a stomach illness on 8 November 2019. His parents who were visiting for the weekend took him to hospital, where the triage nurse was initially reluctant to admit Graham in case he passed on stomach bug to other patients. However Graham’s condition rapidly deteriorated, and he tragically died less than 24 hours later. The cause of death was determined to be bacterial meningitis.
“The doctors said it was one of the most aggressive cases they’d ever seen,” remembers Ryan. “I was so angry when it happened. I wanted to break things, punch things. I felt like I would’ve done anything for it to have been me, not him that had died.”
Graham was a healthy, hard-working student who led an active life playing football and going to the gym. Ryan remembers him as “always happy, and always smiling”.
This Sunday (3rd October) Ryan, who works as an IT Salesman in Reading, will take on the Virgin London Marathon in memory of his younger brother. Having already raised over £20,000 for Meningitis Research Foundation with his sister Carina, Ryan hopes to boost that total this weekend.
“I think Graham would be really proud of us,” said Ryan. “I think he’d laugh if he knew that I was running the marathon. He’d want to have a go himself and beat my time!”
Ryan hopes to continue raising funds for MRF and awareness of the deadly disease. “Meningitis can happen to anyone,” he said. “It acts fast and is very aggressive. When you’re at university you think you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, but meningitis can strike very quickly.”
Before he went to university, Graham was vaccinated against four types of meningitis with the MenACWY vaccine. Unfortunately, he contracted and lost his life to MenB meningitis, which is not covered by the MenACWY vaccine. No single vaccine currently exists that can provide protection against all forms of the disease.
Having completed the Virgin London Marathon previously in 2019, with a time of 5 hours 17 minutes, Ryan now hopes to complete the 26.2-mile course in 4 hours 10 minutes.
He said: “The atmosphere in London is unbelievable; the amount of people clapping carries you forward. And I know Graham would be proud, so that will carry me forward too.”