Calum's story

14th January 2021

Our Community Ambassador Margaret McLaren, from Glasgow, has been supporting our work since losing her nephew Calum to meningitis in October 2007. She tells their story here

Calum M bacterial MenB meningitis case study

“In October 2007, our lives were changed forever when we lost my nephew Calum to meningitis. 

“Calum was 12 years old. He was a bright, intelligent boy who was full of life and loved his family and friends. He was a boy who always had to be doing something and was thoughtful and attentive to all who knew him. He would be the organiser of events, weekends were always filled with doing things, days out to the laser quest and the park.

“He loved company and especially that of his younger sister Kirsten and his cousins, Morven, Isla and Emma. 

“When you visited Calum he would always come running downstairs to give you a kiss and a cuddle. 

Full of ambition

“In September 2007 he had just started his second year at the secondary school. He was full of ambition and loved school. He went to an outdoor activity course in the Trossachs with the school and it was shortly after this that he fell ill with a flu virus. He was off school for a couple of weeks. 

“The weekend before he passed away he had been feeling a lot better and went back to the school on the Monday. I called and spoke to him and he was full of joy at being back in school, seeing the teachers and being part of his group again. 

“On the Wednesday morning I awoke to the phone ringing just before 7am. It was with news that Calum had been taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. He had woken in the early hours with a severe headache and by 6am was in an induced coma and connected to machines.

Make my way to hospital

“The day seemed to drag without any news of what was happening. Then at 2pm I got a call from my brother Sinclair. I had to make my way to the hospital. It was meningitis and it wasn’t good. Calum was in intensive care and I had to go as soon as possible. 

“Later that day my brother and sister-in-law Kim were told that Calum had no brain activity and that there was nothing that could be done. 

“Many discussions and conference calls took place between the consultants at the Southern General Hospital and the Children’s Hospital. Sinclair and Kim were asked about donating Calum’s organs and agreed to this, helping five others by giving them the gift of life. The wheels were set in motion to allow the transplant teams and patients to be notified. 

We were in disbelief

“That night and all of the next day we were in disbelief how this could happen to Calum, our bright, shining, intelligent boy. 

“Legally, a further two tests had to be carried out to prove that Calum, the boy we all knew and loved, had gone. On the Friday morning we all got to say our goodbyes to him and left the hospital for the final time. 

“It was after this that we as a family became aware of Meningitis Now, the work it does and the support it offers. 

Fundraising ideas

“Sinclair and Kim told us of their plans to hold a celebration of Calum’s short but fun-filled life and asked all the family and his friends about fundraising ideas. They wanted to remember Calum and help raise money that could be donated in his memory. 

“We set about organising a day that included all his favourite things – music, console games, a silent auction, raffles and a tuck shop were some of the things we arranged to be held in Calum’s school on what would have been his 13th birthday. At the initial fundraiser we raised more than £12,000. 

“Since then Sinclair has set up a tribute fund in Calum’s memory and his friends and family have held various fundraising events to add to this, raising nearly £90,000 to date. 

Support and dedication

“The support Meningitis Now gives is immense and I don’t think we could have come through our loss without the support and dedication from their staff and the resources available. 

“My family have found support through the counselling services, with both my niece Kirsten having art therapy sessions and counselling and my daughter Morven having counselling. Both have been able to talk about their loss and find comfort and support and ways to deal with their bad days. 

“Personally, I have gained knowledge and strength from Meningitis Now in being able to talk about what happened to Calum and get information out to others about the symptoms and the effects of the disease. 

“This is why we continue to fundraise so that the charity can continue its much-needed support, sadly still so required by so many.

“I myself benefitted from the charity’s counselling services a few years ago; around the time of the 10th anniversary of Calum’s passing. It shows that grief never ends.” 

Read Margaret’s volunteering story.

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