Jonathan Davies, 54, from Braintree in Essex has become our latest Community Ambassador, joining a select group of just 40 Community Ambassadors across the country
It’s appropriate that the announcement comes as we hold our annual Viral Meningitis Awareness Week (1 to 7 May) to ‘Make Viral Visible’.
Jonathan told us “I’m delighted to have this opportunity to give something back to Meningitis Now and make a difference with their work in my local community. I know only too well how cruel this disease can be and I don’t want other local families to go through what mine has. It’s vital that everybody recognises the signs and symptoms and knows what action to take if they suspect meningitis. This role will be a challenge but I’m determined to make a difference.”
Open water triathlon
In 2002 Jonathan was leading an active life, training for his first open water sea triathlon, when viral meningitis struck. “I remember thinking I’ll give it a couple of days and I’ll be back to normal,” he said.
But it wasn’t that straightforward. The attack was nearly fatal and left him barely able to walk, talk or even recognise his children. In the days after he was diagnosed our website was a source of tremendous help and advice for him and his family at what was a very scary time.
“When I left hospital I was a changed man”, Jonathan said. “I could barely walk and struggled to string a sentence together. I was bedridden for six weeks, off work for just under six months and kissed goodbye to being a triathlete for around five years.”
Left with after-effects
“I have been left with a variety of after-effects,” he added, “including a constant headache, joint pain, photophobia and Mollaret's meningitis – a recurring form of the disease.”
But despite his ongoing after-effects Jonathan has fought back to combine his love of triathlon with supporting our work. He completed the Brentwood Half Marathon in March and is taking on the Frinton Half Marathon on Sunday 7 May – the last day of Viral Meningitis Awareness Week.
Jonathan plans to round the year off with a half iron distance triathlon of 70.3 miles (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run) at the Monster Middle on 20 August.
And, in fitting style for a triathlete, Jonathan has already hit the ground running in his new role. He recounted his experience at an awareness-raising event for Viral Week organised with our corporate supporters Irwin Mitchell and he will also represent us at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party on 23 May.
Meet our other Community Ambassadors.
Find out more about Viral Meningitis Awareness Week.