Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Remember loved ones with Meningitis Now's Christmas Ribbon Appeal

Andy Hopkinson | 3rd November 2021

A heartbroken family who lost their youngest daughter to deadly meningitis have launched our annual Christmas Ribbon Appeal today

Remember loved ones with Meningitis Now's Ribbon Appeal 2021

Eilidh was just 8 when she became ill and died from MenW whilst on a family holiday in France in July 2019.

Now parents Ann Marie and Stuart, and sister Zoë, have kindly shared Eilidh's story to support our annual Ribbon Appeal, which offers everyone the chance to remember their loved ones at Christmas and donate to fight back against this devastating disease.

A white ribbon, inscribed with a loved one’s name, is placed on the Tree of Remembrance which takes pride of place at our annual Christmas concert in Gloucester Cathedral. A second white ribbon is sent to the family to display on their tree at home. Families affected by meningitis but not bereaved are also invited to support the appeal, which launches today (1 November) and runs until 26 November.

Became ill on family holiday

Ann Marie, Stuart and Zoë, from Kinross in Scotland, saw their lives change in the blink of an eye when Eilidh became ill on the family holiday. Initially Ann Marie thought her daughter might have heatstroke, but when she didn’t want to walk around the local shop after lunch she began to suspect that it might be more serious.

Eilidh was admitted to the local hospital, but her condition continued to get worse and she was airlifted to a larger regional hospital.

“We had to drive the three hours there, and by the time we arrived, she had experienced a cerebral edema, her pupils were blown, and she was on life support,” Ann Marie said. “From the time she first complained of being ill to the time she experienced the edema was around 12 hours.

“We were able to spend the rest of the night in the hospital, and she had another CT scan at noon the next day, after which she was declared brain dead.

“Our lives changed in the blink of an eye and will never be the same again. We will forever be without our youngest daughter, which is devastating for all of us.”

Eilidh MenW bacterial meningitis case study

There for me and my family

Since then, we have supported the family through our home visits and our bereavement support Facebook group.

Ann Marie added: “In particular, Alison (our Community Support Officer) has made me feel she is looking out for us, even when the rest of the world seems to have moved on. She has been wonderful in checking in on us, providing information and making me aware of various therapy opportunities in our area.

“It was very comforting to know that someone else was looking out for us at a time when it was easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated.”

Christmas can be a difficult time

Steve Dayman, our Executive Founder, said: “As someone who has also lost a child to this cruel disease, I know something of the heartbreak that Ann Marie, Stuart and Zoë experience every day.

“We know that the pain of losing a loved one to meningitis doesn’t disappear with time. My son Spencer died 39 years ago and not a day goes by when I don’t feel his loss. And two and a half years on, Ann Marie, Stuart and Zoë live with the weight of their grief every day.

“That’s why, this Christmas, I hope you will join me and all those who have lost a loved one to meningitis by supporting our Ribbon Appeal and help us to keep fighting this terrible disease and be there for all the families who need our support, at Christmas time and throughout the year.

“Thank you for your support. Together we’ll reach a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need.”

Lifesaving and life-changing work

All donations go towards our ongoing lifesaving and life-changing work, funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis and rebuilding futures by providing dedicated support to people living with the impact of the disease.

To dedicate a ribbon and donate visit our Ribbon Appeal page.

Buy tickets for the Gloucester Cathedral Christmas Concert on Thursday 2 December here or phone 01453 768 000.

Read Eilidh’s story.