Bringing research home

2nd February 2019

Sometimes it’s hard for scientists working in the abstract world of meningitis research to really understand why they are doing what they do

Sue and Cieran at meningitis research conference blog

So unsurprisingly we seized the opportunity when asked to find a family who had been affected by the disease to speak at a conference and really bring to life the full impact of living with meningitis. 

The bonus for Sue Waring and son Cieran, who were chosen by Thermo Fisher Scientific to attend their conference, was that the meeting was in sunny Portugal – and it was an all-expenses-paid trip!

Cieran contracted meningitis when he was nine months old. Taken to hospital, he nearly died but was resuscitated – and went on to spend a week battling the disease in intensive care. 

Now, 13 years on, Cieran and mum Sue were delighted when they were chosen to represent meningitis-affected families everywhere to speak at a conference run by Thermo Fisher Scientific in the Algarve.

Sue, who lives in St Helen’s, Merseyside, said they were given the five-star treatment during their trip. “Nothing was too much trouble,” she said. 

The speech itself took place as the conference kicked off. Sue had been sent a list of questions they would be asked by the Vice President of Thermo Fisher. She said, “We had to talk about Cieran’s diagnosis and treatment and the support we have had from Meningitis Now."

“We talked about our Community Support Officer Christine Mather, financial support grants in the form of a Mac for Cieran, sign language, a light room, and art therapy for our daughter."

“We have also regularly attended Family Days and Believe and Achieve weekends held at PGL activity centres and had the opportunity to meet other families whose lives have been impacted by meningitis."

“We also talked about how tests should be affordable and accessible so that no children are missed. The cost of testing is nothing compared to the after effects and devastation caused to a family”. 

As for Cieran, who accompanied his mum all the way, the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable. 

“Cieran was excited to see John, our driver, here to collect him in a Mercedes and even more excited that the car contained free water to drink!” said Sue. 

The food in the hotel restaurant also impressed Cieran, who was made to feel like a VIP. One of the highlights of his trip was when he was presented with a Portugese football shirt by Thermo Fisher bigwigs – but perhaps the most memorable moment came on their last night.

“We were invited to join Thermo Fisher for a drinks and buffet dinner reception and Cieran challenged us to eat oysters!” said Sue. 

“Another one off the bucket list! He told me off every time another glass of wine was placed in my hand (yes I had a slightly bad head the next day), but a thoroughly fantastic experience and some quality bonding time with Ceiran."

“Thank you Thermo Fisher, you have given us memories that will truly last forever and hopefully we’ve given some insight that the test is no longer just a product number – it’s a difference to someone’s life.”