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Charlie M's story

17th March 2021

Our Community Ambassador Ian Watkinson explores the impact losing his grandson Charlie to meningitis had on him and still has

Charlie M's story

“We lost my grandson Charlie to pneumococcal meningitis in October 2010. He was just 15 weeks old. His death changed all our lives.

“Charlie was a perfectly healthy little boy, already developing a cheeky personality and, with big brother James, completed a lovely family for Katy, my daughter, and her husband, Chris. We were all thrilled for them.

“Then meningitis struck. We did not know that at the time, of course, because like most families we knew little about it. There were two inconclusive visits to the local health centre before Katy took him to A&E where the diagnosis was finally made, and we began to realise what we were up against.

Scans revealed the damage done

“Charlie was rushed by ambulance to the Paediatric ICU at Alder Hey in Liverpool where a series of scans revealed the damage done. All meaningful brain function had been destroyed. Charlie would never be able to breathe or move independently, let alone do any of the other things that make up a life. The recommendation was to switch off the life support and let nature take its course. The family tearfully agreed.

“The family were given time to say our goodbyes and then waited in the hospital while Charlie slowly slipped away in his Mummy and Daddy’s arms. Those were the longest hours of my life.

Affected me in so many ways

“Charlie’s death affected me in so many ways. Of course, the loss of a much-loved grandson caused immense grief and pain. It still does. Helping to carry his tiny, weightless coffin is a memory for life.

“But as a father I was also in mourning in another way. I was grieving for the pain and loss and guilt being felt by Katy. To see one’s child go through all of that just added to the pain and loss and guilt I already felt myself.

“We had reached out to the Meningitis Trust (as it was then) and received wonderful and valuable support. We decided, as a family, that working to support the charity was the best way of remembering Charlie and we quickly got involved. We raised money, of course, but we were passionate about raising awareness. We did not want other families suffering in this way. It became our reason to be strong.

Important we share our experiences

“I speak regularly to community groups and others about the dangers and symptoms of meningitis hoping at least some will take the message to heart. I have shed a tear in public more times than I care to remember as I tell Charlie and Katy’s story but it is important that we do share our experiences.

“I was always close to Katy and her sister but Charlie’s death brought us even closer, which is wonderful. Our shared sorrow is something we have every day, not just on those special days such as Charlie’s birthday, anniversary or Christmas. But Charlie is still a huge part of our family. And always will be.

“Losing a child is the most terrible, painful thing we can imagine. Losing a grandchild is a different, more nuanced pain, but it is there for ever and it changes lives. But there is a life after your loss and it can be as meaningful and full of purpose as you make it.”