Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Join the race to #DefeatMeningitis

Andy Hopkinson | 5th October 2022

What better way to join the race to defeat meningitis – the theme for this year’s World Meningitis Day which takes place today (Wednesday 5 October) – than to take on the iconic London Marathon, which took place last weekend

Join the race to defeat meningitis

We had 48 runners making up Team Tangerine and we’d like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to each and every one of them for taking on the challenge and helping to raise vital awareness and funds.

They came from all corners of the country, Lucy from Merseyside, Charis from the capital, Rob, complete with his Bristol and Avon and Meningitis Now branded tipper truck from the south west – too many to mention individually, but thank you one and all.

One runner we especially did want to mention though is our super supporter Michelle Bresnahan, who took on the event for the first time, and finished in a very creditable 4 hours 51 minutes and 45 seconds. Many congratulations Michelle.

Join the race to defeat meningitis

Committed to the fight

For those of you who don’t know Michelle’s story and why she’s so committed to the fight against meningitis she tells it eloquently here.

“Those of you who know me will already be bored with my marathon mission but I make no apologies for that. In my head and my heart, not to mention my legs, it’s a big deal. I know it’s been done before but not by me.

“I’ve watched our wonderful family and friends take part in this most unique and inspiring event over the past 12 years since losing our dearest Ryan, and hoped one day I would have the mental and physical strength to take it on myself. Well, that day has come.

“Perhaps I should set the scene on why this means so much to me

“Thirteen years ago, we were a 'normal-ish' family - John and I had two amazing children Ryan and Charlotte, who were just the perfect pair, two peas in a pod.... my world. We worked hard, played hard and had the most wonderful life – which I hasten to add, I never took for granted and was and always will be the proudest mother in the world. 

“On 31 March 2010, our world changed forever. Ryan became seriously ill in the morning and after every effort was made by the paramedics and doctors at our home and then later at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, nothing could be done to save him. Meningococcal Septicaemia (Meningitis B) killed him within a few hours. We had no time to say goodbye – but then, how would we? Perhaps we were spared that.

Facing the future without Ryan

“The unenviable task of telling our loved ones was our first step to facing the future without Ryan. How was I going to tell my mum, that my son, her grandson, had died, without her knowing that he was even ill? After many hours of disbelief at the story that we were sharing, it very soon became apparent that the world outside ‘us’ had heard about Ryan too. Ryan’s mobile phone was going crazy with continual messages from friends hoping that the news of his death was an early April Fool. 

“The medical team had been amazing and we will forever be truly grateful for everything that was done for Ryan while he was in their care. He had just turned 16 on March 18 with his whole wonderful life ahead of him.

Grief doesn’t change you – it reveals you

“I read somewhere that grief doesn't change you – it reveals you. Losing Ryan certainly revealed my love for my amazing family and friends and I just wanted to 'ring fence' everyone who was special to me – which I had to believe would get me through. Twelve years on and I believe it certainly has, which has given me the strength to run 'a Life for a Cure' and now run a Marathon. I cannot thank all those special people enough for their continued unconditional support, not to mention being warm, kind, considerate and funny! I truly hope you know who you are and how much you mean to me.

“'a Life for a Cure' was founded with the sole purpose that some good must come from losing Ryan. It has raised £563,000 towards vital meningitis vaccine research, campaigning for greater vaccine take-up and raised awareness of the disease's symptoms. The second at-risk age group of 15-24-year-olds is specifically targeted to ensure other amazing young adults are not lost to this deadly disease.

“Please visit  the Meningitis Now website for full information on the vaccines now available to protect you and your loved ones. It's also essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms that are often everyday ailments: vomiting, headache, drowsiness and fever and can be confused with hangovers, flu and now Covid-19. The rash that is often associated with meningitis can be the last to appear. 

Means so much to me

“So that, in a nutshell, is why this means so much to me. I truly want to pay back to all the hundreds of supporters who have walked, ran, cycled, swam, climbed, jumped out of aeroplanes, baked, sang, acted, danced – pretty much everything you could imagine, and of course, supported all our events over the years. 

“There aren't the words to describe the pain and loss Ryan's family have endured and how it turned our life upside down. Charlotte has been truly amazing through everything – always so positive, strong and with a smile that melts my heart. She really is my shining star and I can't wait to see her beautiful face as Ryan gives me angel wings to sprint past her in October! A gentle plod may be nearer the truth but one thing’s for sure, it will be a PB! I'm very lucky to be joined by three other runners, 'Running for Ryan': Tom Carter – Ryan's cousin and family friends, Jane Birakos and James Heaven, who will make the day even more memorable – massive thanks to you all.

“If you are able to spare a few pennies or a few pounds to support us that would be amazing. I have set a rather large target to increase our fundraising to £600,000. so I am hugely grateful to our corporate sponsors, Clifton College, Burston Cook and Zing365 for starting the pot off rather generously!”

Support Michelle 

Not the only contribution

However, that’s not Michelle’s only contribution to the race to defeat meningitis – she’s also shared her story with the influential Two Women Chatting podcast, and this goes live today. You can listen to the full episode here World Meningitis Day TWC podcast and it can be downloaded from any podcast platform or for free from the show website and TWC website, YouTube or via the Instagram @twowomenchatting

If you want to join the race to defeat meningitis why not sign up for next year’s London Marathon on 23 April with us? 

And here’s a few things you can do in the meantime to join the race to defeat meningitis by 2030