Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Meet Jo, our new Community Ambassador

Andy Hopkinson | 23rd July 2022

Meet Jo Arnold, from Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, who has become our latest Community Ambassador

Jo Arnold becomes Meningitis Now Community Ambassador

She will work alongside our team to help fund vital research, raise awareness and support others who have suffered from meningitis. 

“Becoming a Community Ambassador is a real honour,” Jo said. “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. 

“It’s a cause close to my heart. My family and I know only too well how cruel this disease can be and I don’t want other families to go through what I have. 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.

“It’s a way to work with the local community, schools and universities to provide an informed view of meningitis and the invaluable work of Meningitis Now in funding research and supporting families affected.” 

Needn’t face meningitis alone

The Community Ambassador role recognises the part played by committed supporters in our work. Jo becomes one of just 29 people around the UK to be invited to become one. 

“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to give even more back to Meningitis Now and make a difference with their work in my local community”, Jo added. “With their support no one needs to face meningitis alone.

“I’m proud and privileged to be involved with this amazing charity and its ongoing work.” 

Jo was working as a teaching assistant at a local primary school when she became ill in 2014. “I took the children to school on a Monday morning and then I started to get a headache and all my limbs began to ache,” she said.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly but luckily her mum spotted the signs of meningitis, called an ambulance and she was admitted to hospital.

Four months in hospital

Jo was put into an induced coma and spent four months in hospital. It was a very frightening time for her family and her husband Paul was told that she had very little chance of survival.

But thankfully Jo did survive. As a result of septicaemia she has had all her toes amputated, a partial hand amputation of her left hand and all the digits on her right hand. Recovery has been an emotional and physical endurance and she has been back and forth to hospital, living with pain daily.

“When I first came out of hospital I didn’t know anybody who had had meningitis. I felt very alone until I looked at the Meningitis Now website and a lot of the personal stories.

“If it had not been for Meningitis Now I think I would have felt very, very alone.

Relearn everything

“I have had to relearn to do absolutely everything and there are still many things that are difficult, such as cutting up my food, peeling potatoes, using hair straighteners, reaching for things on the top shelf of the supermarket without breaking anything and my biggest frustrations – cash machines and car parking machines.”

A year after contracting meningitis Jo attended one of our Rebuilding Futures Days, which was an opportunity to meet others who had experienced the disease.

She was determined to get family life back to normal for her daughters Katy and Lily. Together they have attended our Family Days and Believe and Achieve weekends and taken part in our annual Five Valleys Walk. They have also raised money through birthday fundraisers on Facebook.

We have supported the family with counselling sessions for Jo and a Young Futures Fund award for Lily.

Jo has also spoken at charity events, sharing her story including speaking eloquently about her experience at the House of Commons launch of our Adults Get It Too campaign.

She added: “My meningitis journey will always continue but it has taught me how precious life is and to cherish it.”

Isobel Black, our Volunteering Manager, said: “We’re thrilled that Jo will be the face of our charity in her local community. With her support, enthusiasm and hard work we’ll be able to achieve so much more in our fight against meningitis.”

Read Jo’s full story