Portsmouth-based Mike Buick has added the Hornby model of our famous Meningitis Trust train to his incredible collection, which he takes to shows around the country on a regular basis.
The full-size GWR Meningitis Trust train was named in 2011 to mark the then Trust’s 25th anniversary. In 2013, the Trust merged with Meningitis UK to become Meningitis Now. The charity has since maintained a close relationship with corporate partners GWR, which provides us with free travel and raises funds and awareness at stations.
Mike chose to support Meningitis Now because he himself contracted the disease more than 30 years ago. He said that “by all rights” he should not be here to tell the story, let alone build a model railway after he was struck down by meningococcal meningitis in 1986.
“As dramatic as it sounds, I was rushed to St Mary’s hospital in Portsmouth with probably an hour to live,” he said.
At St Mary’s he lost consciousness before being given a lumbar puncture. “A week later, I regained consciousness and found the entire right-hand side of my body was paralysed”.
He also found he could only say three words – yes, no, and another word too rude to print!
“Whilst this seems funny now, at the time it was extremely frustrating as my thought processes seemed perfectly normal but trying to communicate with just those three words was a challenge in itself!”
Determined not to be beaten
Mike spent three weeks in hospital but after being told he may never regain the use of his right arm and leg he became determined not to be beaten.
“At the turn of the fourth week I began to add some more words to my speech such as hello, mum, please and thank you and I became a little more boisterous.”
After five weeks he started to regain movement in his right arm and after just six weeks he found he could stand up – although added that it wasn’t the best idea he had had as he “tried to walk to the toilet and fell over half way down the corridor!”
Mike said he had more or less completely recovered eight months after first falling ill, although he still has some after-effects even all these years later. “I was lucky to survive, and it’s certainly made me realise that no matter how bad or difficult things can be, never give up”.
Luckily, Mike didn’t give up – and one of the things he has done over the last three-and-a-half years is to build his model railway collection. Named “Oak Road” after a fictitious town in Somerset modelled on the real station of Castle Cary on the Reading to Taunton line, the collection has already been displayed several times over the last 18 months.
Mike said he had paused the shows while he completed his display but plans to be back in September – this time with Meningitis Now t-shirts and collecting tins, as well as a full-size replica of the original Meningitis Trust name plate (which has been kindly made and donated by Tim Horn.)