Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Boxing clever after meningitis

Andy Hopkinson | 15th September 2021

Kerry Ganly tells us about one woman’s success story despite being struck down by meningitis as a 10-year-old

Owner of Colleague Box Natalie's memory loss after meningitis

Natalie Bamford is a wife, mum and successful business owner with the personalised gift company she set up with husband Adam during the first national lockdown – Colleague Box - turning over £1m in just five months.

But, aged 10, Natalie – now 36 – almost lost her life after contracting meningitis. Not that she can remember much about the experience; Natalie suffers from memory loss which affects her day-to-day life, meaning that she can’t remember her wedding day, or the birth of her two daughters, Lola and Poppy. 

Owner of Colleague Box Natalie's memory loss after meningitis

Pictured: A family photo of Natalie, husband Adam, daughters Lola and Poppy and Pixie the dog

“I have a photo archive of 34,000 pictures and videos which helps me to remember those special moments,” said Natalie.

Keep journals and have Post-it Notes

“I keep journals and have Post-It Notes stuck to my laptop at Colleague Box HQ; I’m lucky to have such an incredible team around me at Colleague Box – including Adam and my mum, Hannah O’Brien – who help with the business. 

“I could have died or lost my limbs, so I’m grateful that my memory loss is the only issue which I have been left with after contracting meningitis. I feel lucky to be alive and am very grateful.”

The only recollection Natalie has of her brush with death comes from the stories her parents Hannah and Stephen O’Brien have told her. In fact, she’s been told them that many times, she can recall the experience off by heart. 

“The only thing I can remember is having a terrible headache,” said Natalie. “My parents, though, said that I hallucinated and told them that ladybirds and Duplo bricks were dancing on the walls.

Initially gave me the all clear

“Dad called the doctor who initially gave me the all-clear. A few hours later, I had deteriorated and was taken to hospital. By this time, there was a rash on my ankle and the nurses recognised this as septicaemia.

“Doctors started to hit me with the drugs and took my parents into a separate room. They told them to contact our relatives and ask them to come to the hospital to say their goodbyes. We were told that the next 48 hours were critical.”

Natalie is a fighter, though. 

After two days and with her life hanging in the balance, the septicaemia was brought under control and Natalie was moved out of intensive care. She was then diagnosed with epilepsy after several seizures but, by the age of 12, these had stopped. 

Owner of Colleague Box Natalie's memory loss after meningitis

Pictured: Natalie in hospital with her heroes; Derby County footballers Paul Simpson and Marco Gabbiadini

Memory loss worsened

Her memory loss worsened after the birth of first daughter, Lola, aged 22 but husband Adam has been a rock for Natalie; his support and sense of humour helping her to cope. 

“I can’t remember much about our first date but Adam insists I invited him round to eat pizza and watch football,” added Natalie, “which sounds like a perfect night to me!

“Memories of our wedding day are a little sketchy but sometimes the memory loss can be advantageous; I can’t remember a thing about the pain of giving birth and I can watch my favourite films over and over again, and it’s like the first time every time!”

Colleague Box has been a serendipity for Natalie. 

After being furloughed when the UK went into its first national lockdown due to Covid, Natalie developed an idea for a personalised gift box which her boss at Selenity, Neil Everett, had to keep businesses connected with employees who, like Natalie, had been furloughed or were working remotely. 

Created in the living room

“The first Colleague Box was created in the living room of our Derby home,” added Natalie, “and now we’re preparing for our second Christmas in a brand-new 4,000-square foot warehouse.

“We have a fabulous team, having created jobs during what has been a tough time for the country due to Covid, and Colleague Box has evolved so much; we now have a range of more than 40 gift boxes and huge plans for 2022. 

“I’m thankful every day for the care I received when I needed it most and for my parents who, without their insistence that something just wasn’t quite right, I may not be here today to share my story with others.”

Owner of Colleague Box Natalie's memory loss after meningitis

Pictured: Adam and Natalie with their Colleague Box

Colleague Box offer free UK shipping, and personalisation is also included with each gift box.  

Each box is ordered online and for bulk purchases, Colleague Box offer a quick turnaround. Packaged using sustainable and recyclable materials, the boxes arrive at the door within a few days. 

To find out more, visit or connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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